On September 2, 2011, 36-year-old Doug Thompson got a phone call that changed the rest of his life. Just days before, Doug went to his doctor for a routine physical and blood work. By the end of the week, his doctor told him that he was near kidney failure at just 19% kidney function. With such low kidney function, Doug would either need to begin dialysis or receive a kidney transplant in order to stay alive.
Doug says the initial news from his doctor was shocking. “I didn’t know much about what the kidneys do,” Doug explains. “Their main function, sure, but how important they are to your body was shocking to learn.”
Doug continues by saying that the one of the hardest parts about understanding his diagnosis was not actually feeling sick at first. “I felt perfectly fine up until a point, but as the disease progressed, I became super tired all the time and had absolutely no appetite,” Doug says.
After his diagnosis, things went downhill quickly for Doug. In February of 2012, Doug began hemodialysis treatments three days a week for four hours at a time. He says that hemodialysis was very challenging and demanding, often affecting his entire day. “When I left the dialysis unit, my day was over. It took all of my energy to get home, and I had to have someone drive me,” Doug explains. After about one month of hemodialysis, Doug switched to peritoneal dialysis. Peritoneal dialysis requires regular exchanges throughout the day and can be managed without visiting a medical facility, but also has many risks related to having a permanent tube in the abdomen.
Despite the challenges that Doug has faced in the last eight months, his own diagnosis has inspired him to help others. “There are so many people that are going through this and don’t know it,” Doug says. “I want to educate people about how to deal with kidney disease. Although you can talk to family and friends, they can only hear what you’re going through but can’t know without firsthand knowledge.”
Doug quickly became involved with spreading awareness about kidney disease and signed up for the Kidney Walk at the Detroit Zoo, one of the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan’s (NKFM) biggest and most popular fundraising events. After creating his walk team, “You’ve got to be kidneying me,” Doug set what he considers a “conservative goal” of $500 and topped it within hours. Now that the team has raised over $2,600, Doug says he is “blown away with the support” he’s received. “It shows how my friends and family are willing to support me in any way possible,” Doug says.
Although he continues to face challenges, Doug remains positive about educating others and raising awareness about kidney disease. For more information about the NKFM’s Kidney Walk, visit kidneywalk.org.