By Elaine Porterfield
Special to The Medium
Darrell Lynch loved his welding job. He felt terrific, loved being active, loved using the high-level skills he was trained for.
Then doctors discovered that untreated high blood pressure had damaged his kidneys beyond repair. Within a very short period, Lynch found himself on dialysis, the treatment that keeps a person alive by cleaning the blood when kidneys can’t.
That was in 1988. Today, Lynch, a 67-year-old Federal Way resident, continues dialysis at Northwest Kidney Centers’ Auburn clinic. Lynch hopes that his personal story of chronic kidney disease can inspire others to reduce their own risk.
One in seven American adults—that’s more than 30 million people—has chronic kidney disease; most don’t know it. Kidney disease is progressive and irreversible, although that progression can be slowed through lifestyle changes and careful attention to diet and medication.
Kidney disease can strike anyone at any age, and people of color have a higher risk of developing of it, as Lynch knows so well.
“I hope people can learn from my experience,” he said.
Lynch’s health problems began around 1987.
“I had high blood pressure. I hadn’t gotten it checked in a while,” he said. “I found out about it during a checkup for a job interview. I was told my kidneys were almost gone – I only had about 10 percent function left. I was about 40 years old, really pretty young. About a year later, I had a seizure one evening and found out my kidneys had completely failed.”
His story shows how vital it is for people to know their health risks and to take care of themselves, Lynch said. Along with high blood pressure, diabetes is also a leading cause of kidney disease, he noted, so it’s important for people to stay on top of such conditions and not be complacent because their health seems good.
In Lynch’s case, he had been taking excellent care of himself when he fell ill. He worked, never partied, and was pretty much just a family man. What he didn’t know was that both his father and mother also suffered from high blood pressure, which put him at much higher risk for the problem than the average population.
“Black people in general are at higher risk for blood pressure problems,” Lynch said. “We should always keep it checked. If I had known I needed to monitor it, it would have been a totally different story for me regarding my kidneys. But with high blood pressure, you feel great, absolutely wonderful. You don’t know you’re sick, but it’s killing you. That’s what happened in my case.”
And that means young men, who can feel invincible, need to be alert, he said. “I have three sons and I tell them, ‘always check your blood pressure.’ Those little things mean a whole lot.”
Lynch is upbeat about the care he receives at Northwest Kidney Centers Auburn, where he dialyzes from 2 to 6 p.m., Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
“It’s a great organization,” he said. “I couldn’t be at a better place. It’s my family when I am not at home. They make it as comfortable as possible and I love them.”
For further information about kidney disease, visit www.nwkidney.org.
Elaine Porterfield is a freelance writer based in Seattle.