Being diagnosed with kidney disease is 'not the end of the road'

Mar 22, 2018 | Spotlight

Edmund and Annick at the 2017 Kidney Walk in Penticton, BC.Edmund and Annick at the 2017 Kidney Walk in Penticton, BC.

With her beaming smile always at the ready and a twinkle in her eyes, Annick Lim doesn’t look anywhere close to 67 years old. Nor does she look like someone dealing with a chronic illness. But the Penticton woman likes to joke about her age because though she is 43 years old, her kidney is actually 67 years old. “I don’t look like I have kidney disease but I do, and having a healthy kidney transplant has saved my life.”

Annick was diagnosed with kidney disease as a baby. By the time she got to her early twenties, her health was in decline and she was told she would need a kidney transplant soon. But she remembers being in denial about how ill she really was. “That’s the thing with kidney disease – most of the time, your symptoms are really hard to read.”

Her dad turned out to be a perfect match. On February 8, 1999, he and Annick underwent surgery at St. Paul’s Hospital under Dr. William Gourlay, now Surgical Director of the Renal Program. Both Annick and her dad recovered well. Annick has fond memories of the care she received from the staff at St. Paul’s. “They allowed my then-boyfriend Edmund (now husband) to stay in the ICU with me for over an hour while he fed me ice chips. I will never forget those precious moments.”

Annick on the operating table, just before receiving her father's kidney.

Dr. William Gourlay and his assistant.

Annick hasn’t slowed down at all since then. She and Edmund are celebrating 20 years together. She works part-time at a local sports store, but often considers her “real” job to be a volunteer and advocate for organ donation awareness with BC Transplant and the Kidney Foundation. To date, Annick has proudly raised more than $60,000 for the Kidney Foundation and has encouraged hundreds, possibly thousands of people, to register as organ donors. “Kidney disease has made me who I am today.  It has made me a better person and I wouldn't change a thing!”

She says during Kidney Month, she wants people who are facing a new diagnosis of kidney disease to know they aren’t alone. “It's not the end of the road. You CAN live with kidney disease and transplant IS possible. I’m so healthy now and I am grateful for the gift of life my dad gave me 19 years ago.”

KIDNEY DISEASE FACTS:

  • 1 in 10 Canadians has kidney disease. Millions more are at risk.
  • Each day, an average of 15 people are told that their kidneys have failed.
  • The two leading causes of kidney failure are: Diabetes – 36%; and Renal Vascular Disease (including high blood pressure) – 15%.
  • The number of Canadians being treated for kidney failure has more than tripled in the past two decades.

COULD YOU HAVE KIDNEY DISEASE? 8 SIGNS TO WATCH FOR!

You’re more tired, have less energy or are having trouble concentrating. A severe decrease in kidney function can lead to a buildup of toxins and impurities in the blood. This can cause you to feel tired, weak and can make it hard to concentrate.

You’re having trouble sleeping. When the kidneys aren’t filtering properly, toxins stay in the blood rather than leaving the body through the urine. This can make it difficult to sleep.

You have dry and itchy skin. Healthy kidneys do many important jobs. They remove wastes and extra fluid from your body, help make red blood cells, keep bones strong and work to maintain the right amount of minerals in your blood. Dry and itchy skin can be a sign of the mineral and bone disease that often accompanies advanced kidney disease, when the kidneys are no longer able to keep the right balance of minerals and nutrients in the blood.

You feel the need to urinate more often. If you feel the need to urinate more often, especially at night, this can be a sign of kidney disease. When the kidneys’ filters are damaged, it can cause an increase in the urge to urinate. Frequent urination can also be a sign of a urinary infection or enlarged prostate in men.

You see blood in your urine. Healthy kidneys typically keep blood cells in the body when filtering wastes from the blood to create urine. However, when the kidneys have been damaged, these blood cells can start to “leak” out into the urine.

Your urine is foamy. Excessive bubbles in the urine — especially ones that require you to flush several times before they go away — indicate protein in the urine. This foam may look like the foam you see when scrambling eggs, as the common protein found in urine, albumin, is the same protein as in eggs.

You’re experiencing persistent puffiness around your eyes. Protein in the urine is an early sign that the kidneys’ filters have been damaged, allowing protein to leak into the urine. This puffiness around your eyes can be due to the fact that your kidneys are leaking a large amount of protein in the urine, rather than keeping it in the body.

Your ankles and feet are swollen. Decreased kidney function can lead to sodium retention, causing swelling in your feet and ankles.

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