The summer of 2006 was an exciting time for me. I had just been drafted by the Redskins and my wife Katie and I were looking forward to the birth of our first child in the fall. Then, during training camp in August, I got an alarming phone call that Katie had gone into labor– five weeks before her due date. I rushed home to Colorado where my son Micah was born prematurely– with end stage renal disease, or kidney failure.
The next year and a half were very trying times for us. Micah had to endure months of medications, daily dialysis for almost a year and trips to the emergency room. One night, we had to head to Children’s National Medical Center after a Redskins home game.
When he was 18 months old, Micah was ready for a transplant. In March 2008, Katie donated a kidney to him. Both are doing very well now. Micah started preschool last fall, and Katie just gave birth to our third child. Thanks to our faith and our wonderful family and friends, we have come out of this experience strong.
The moral of my story is that while kidney failure for Micah was not preventable, it is for most Washington-area residents. That’s why I’m committed to helping the National Kidney Foundation raise awareness about kidney disease and its leading causes– diabetes and high blood pressure.
More than 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease, and most don’t know it. The Washington, D.C. area had the highest prevalence of kidney disease in the nation. I’ve been involved with the National Kidney Foundation for three years, and I have seen first-hand the vital work it does in our community. Over the past decade, they have screen more than 23,000 people through their early detection programs. This is vitally important because if kidney disease is identified in its early stages, the progression to kidney failure may be delayed or even prevented.
As a spokesman for the “Love Your Kidneys” public awareness campaign, I have had the opportunity to meet patients young and old, record public service announcements, speak at a World Kidney Day reception on Capitol Hill and participate in many NKF special events such as the DC101 Chili Cook-Off and the NKF Golf Classic. The one that is most special to me is the Kidney Walk, an inspiring event that brings together patients, family, friends, the medical community and the public at large to celebrate life and raise funds to fight kidney disease. This year, I was honorary chairman of the Northern Virginia Kidney Walk on April 3 at Reston Town Center.
In addition to the prevention of kidney disease, the National Kidney Foundation is committed to organ donation awareness. Right now, there are 110,000 Americans on the transplant waiting list, including 88,000 waiting for kidneys. There is such a dire shortage of organ donors in this country that two-thirds of the people on the list will die waiting. In 2009, NKF launched a groundbreaking, collaborative initiative called “END THE WAIT!” as a response to the nationwide kidney transplant shortage.
The National Kidney Foundation is the leader in the fight against kidney disease. In addition to public awareness and the free early detection services, donations fund NKF’s ongoing work in research, patient services, and professional education. Visit the website [by clicking here] or call 202-244-7900 to learn more about the National Kidney Foundation, kidney disease and organ donation.