Kidney Walk set for Sunday

Allyson Klink had been sick for over a month.

She’d been on two different antibiotics, but her doctor just couldn’t make sense of her flu-like symptoms and referred her to a rheumatologist.

By the day of that appointment, her symptoms were unbearable. Her face was puffy and looked as if she’d been in a fight. When a snow storm threatened to close the rheumatologist’s office, Klink went to the emergency room.

“They started testing and found that my kidneys had failed,” she said.

Klink is 36-years-old and lives in Georgetown. Though she has no history of kidney problems in her family, she does suffer from high blood pressure, a common cause of kidney failure.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, the kidneys remove waste products and excess fluid from the body by producing urine. When the kidneys fail, dialysis is necessary for the body to continue to function. Right now, there are about 2,175 Delawareans on dialysis. There are two main types, hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.

Klink started out with peritoneal dialysis, in which a catheter was placed in her abdomen. A cleansing fluid passes through the catheter into the abdomen, removes toxins from the lining of the stomach and empties through the catheter into a plastic bag. The process is done every night, supposedly while one sleeps, but Klink said the catheter was uncomfortable and often kept her awake.

“And I just wasn’t feeling good,” she said. “I was always sick to my stomach and throwing up a lot, always tired. My body just didn’t like it.”

She made the decision to move to hemodialysis and had an arteriovenous graft placed in her arm, or a tube inserted in the arm to connect an artery to a vein. She now visits a doctor for four hours three times a week to have a machine connected to the graft, cycle her blood out of her body, cleanse it and return it.

Klink is hoping to become a candidate for a kidney transplant, but her body has to be in tip-top condition for that. She’s working to lose weight so that she can be placed on a transplant list. A little-known fact about kidney transplants is that the failed kidneys are never actually removed, as removing them would constitute a major and unnecessary surgery. Kidney transplants are placed in front of and below the original kidney.

“I think continuing to work has helped me a lot,” said Klink, who works as a para-educator at Sussex Consortium in Lewes. “It gives me a reason to get up every morning. I have my days when I’m down, but that only makes things worse. You have to make the best of it.”

Klink is on a strict diet. She isn’t allowed to eat processed foods or anything with preservatives and has to avoid foods high in phosphorus or potassium because her body struggles to process those chemicals. Since kidney failure often causes fluid to build up in the body, she’s restricted to consuming 32 ounces of fluid a day. She also takes a handful of medications daily.

“I get tired a lot easier than I used to,” Klink said. “I used to work two jobs and was always going. I still do, but I know when I’m tired I have to stop and relax a little bit.”

However, that won’t stop her from participating in the 2017 Southern Delaware Kidney Walk on Sunday, April 30 at Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes. She has a team of family and friends that will walk with her called Ally’s Angels.

“I want to bring awareness to the disease and support people like me who go through this every day,” Klink said.

Kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the National Kidney Foundation. The organization recommends simply asking your doctor, “How are my kidneys?” at routine check-ups to prevent kidney disease. After asking you a few questions, your doctor may perform two simple tests to determine if treatment is needed.

To find out more about kidney disease and the Southern Delaware Kidney Walk, visit kidneywalk.org.