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Karen's Story

This year's campaign highlighted the importance of high blood pressure.

March 12, 2009 marked the 4th World Kidney Day.

This year's campaign highlighted the importance of high blood pressure as one of the key symptoms and causes of chronic kidney disease. High blood pressure puts stress on blood vessels throughout the body, including the kidneys which help maintain the including the kidneys which help maintain the body's chemical balance or metabolism, produce essential hormones, and clear the blood of waste products that act as toxins. In 2004, Mr. Rongve's kidney function, which had stayed within the 40-50% range for years, dropped to the 20% mark. Hypertension was the main cause. "In the summer, I got so weak on the golf course I had to lie down. I knew that I was quite ill.''  That's when his doctor recommended he visit the Renal Insufficiency Clinic at St. Paul’s Hospital where he has learned, and put into the practice, the health self-management principles that are helping him  and his wife and caregiver, Sylvia,  maintain their active lifestyle.

The importance of kidney health Karen RongveKaren Rongve, a 71-year-old, retired teacher knows the importance of kidney health and its relationship to blood pressure. In the mid-1960s, he was diagnosed with a parathyroid tumour which extracted calcium from his teeth and bones and deposited it all over his system. "That was the beginning of the damaging of my kidneys,'' he recalls. Once he left the hospital and started regaining his health, his blood pressure rose dramatically, running as high as 200. 

When one thinks of diet, one usually thinks of weight; but in kidney care, it’s about only eating certain foods because some affect the kidneys which are involved in processing chemicals in the body.  Karen had already cut out salt and processed foods, particularly meats, precisely because of the high salt content which affects blood pressure. He notes, "I got a good education on what foods to eat and not to eat. That was number one. I made a decision when I got the list that I would follow it to a T and my wife is totally amazing too. It’s a decision that one has to make: Are you going to manage your health?’’

Then came changes in medication. "They’re much more specific in terms of what kind of drugs you should take and why, and they educate you about that too.’’ At the clinic, they also have an exercise specialist. Something as simple as taking his two-hour, daily exercise routine indoors has improved his health.

Improving quality of life

Karen has learned key concepts of chronic kidney disease management: that doing things right in terms of medication, diet, and exercise can make all the difference in enjoying life. He hopes that if and when his kidney function drops to the level of end-stage renal disease (15% or lower) that he’ll be able to maintain his lifestyle by going onto peritoneal dialysis. Given his advanced age and the shortage of organs available for transplantation, he is aware that dialysis will be the treatment most likely to help him sustain the quality of life he values.