Don’t Fight Chronic Kidney Disease Alone
By Matthew Garza
Were you recently diagnosed with chronic kidney disease? The National Kidney Foundation’s Peers program can connect you with a trained peer mentor to help guide you through the challenges of dialysis, transplant, or living kidney donation.
What is chronic kidney disease?
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) occurs when the kidneys cannot properly filter the fluids that pass through them. According to the American Kidney Fund, diabetes is the primary cause of chronic kidney disease because over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the tiny blood vessels in the kidney. In fact, one in three adults with diabetes – whether type 1 or type 2 diabetes – may already have CKD.
Unfortunately, many people experience little to no symptoms until significant kidney damage has occurred. That’s why it is so important to get your kidney health checked regularly, through two tests that can help catch CKD early on: a UACR test (urine-albumin-to-creatine ratio) and an eGFR test (estimated glomerular filtration rate). To learn more about common lab tests for people with diabetes, read Dr. Fran Kaufman’s article “Get to Know Your Lab Tests: A1C, eGFR, UACR, and More.”
CKD is divided into five stages based on the GFR measure of your kidney function. The most severe CKD occurs at stages 4 and 5, when GFR drops below 29 or 15 ml/min/1.73 m2 respectively.
What is the National Kidney Foundation’s Peers program?
Being diagnosed with severe CKD can be an upsetting experience, but you are not alone. The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) Peers program was designed to bring people together who have experienced similar situations, to share stories, perspectives, and advice. The peer mentors are people living with kidney disease (or kidney donors, for people considering living kidney donation) who have gone through comprehensive program training with the NKF.
The PEERs program is for anyone who:
Was told they would need dialysis or a kidney transplant
Was diagnosed with CKD stage 4 or 5 (the two most severe stages)
Is having a hard time with dialysis or is considering home dialysis
Is considering becoming a living kidney donor
How does the program work?
Getting started with the program is simple. First, fill out the online form (found here) or call the NKF at 855-653-7337 to share some information about yourself. You will then be matched with a mentor and you can specify your availability for a phone call. After that, all that’s left to do is connect with your mentor on-on-one.
If you are interested in connecting with a larger group, the NKF also has online communities. Or, if you are interested in becoming a CKD mentor yourself, fill out this form. Don’t go through this journey alone. To learn more about the importance of early testing for CKD, read our interview with Debbie Allen and Dr. Joseph Vassalotti on the “Are You the 33%?” campaign.