March is National Kidney Disease awareness month. The disease affects Americans of all races and ethnicities, but has a disproportionate effect on African Americans and Hispanics.
One group, the Marion Luckers Kidney Foundation, is helping by hosting a benefit Dinner and Silent Auction to raise awareness and needed funds to help those dealing with the kidney disease.
An estimated 20 million people, or some 10 percent of the population of the United States, may live with some degree of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
“Kidney disease is very prevalent in the African-American community in that a lot of people. A lot of people don’t realize that if you have diabetes or high blood pressure the long term effects could be kidney disease, being placed on dialysis and obesity,” said Lynette Luckers, who founded the Marian Luckers Kidney Foundation.
In 2011, Luckers started the organization to raise awareness about kidney disease in honor of her mother who died from complications of the disease.
“My mother was a diabetic for about 15 years and as a result she ended up having a heart attack and the long term effects of that was that she ended up on dialysis,” Luckers said.
“A lot of people don’t realize that a lot of people on dialysis are Blacks and Hispanics; Blacks are three times more likely to be placed on dialysis and suffer from kidney disease than whites.”
Taking care of one’s health is essential to help prevent chronic disease, especially hypertension and diabetes. This, according to Luckers, includes African Americans and Hispanics of all ages.
There is another problem facing African Americans with CKD.
“African Americans are least likely to become donors, when you donate your organs you can save approximately three lives on average,” Luckers said.
Each year the Marion Luckers Kidney Foundation hosts its benefit dinner and silent auction as an effort to both financially assist those who live with CKD as well as to raise awareness and correct misconceptions related to organ donations.
Aretha Swift was awarded an award during a benefit dinner two years ago and said it was a beautiful event.
Swift, who had been on dialysis for several years and currently awaiting a kidney transplant, said that she was referred to the MLK Foundation by a member of her church.
“I was selected to come to the dinner and share my journey with being on dialysis and having to deal with kidney failure,” she said.
Swift did not know that she would be the recipient a small cash award and recognized as an honoree.
“I was in tears,” Swift said. “At that time dialysis was really new to me and I was dealing with the fact that this was really happening to me, that this was where I was at this particular time.”
Telling her story at the MLK dinner was therapeutic.
“I was taken aback and I was so grateful because I wasn’t expecting it; it was such a sweet and pleasant surprise to me,” Swift said.
The dinner also helped change the life of Donald Richardson was also a past honoree and says he hasn’t stopped going since his first visit several years ago.
“My whole outlook about dealing with Renal Failure has changed. I met people with the same problem I had, I saw what the foundation was doing and I applaud them,” Richardson said.
“Once I went to the first affair and they honored me, and I listened to the stories of other people, I didn’t feel so bad,” he said. “I’m a director of a youth organization and I was ready to throw in the towel on that.”
It was Luckers and the foundation, which helped him to continue and now Richardson lives a very active life despite his battle with the disease.
“It inspired me to keep on going because I was ready to sit back and wait until I got my kidney and then get back into the groove but since I met them I never lost a stride, I’m in step now and moving faster than I ever moved before,” Richardson said.
With diagnosis comes a host of expenses related to care including treatment costs, transportation to and from dialysis, lost wages as many have had to leave their employment or reduce their hours because of the illness or the treatment.
The average dialysis patient must receive treatment three days a week and each treatment is three hours making it difficult to maintain a normal work schedule.
End-stage renal disease (ESRD) occurs when the kidneys fail, or cease to function.
This occurs in Blacks more than three times more than it does whites and increases the chance of cardiovascular disease and other forms of premature death among those who are diagnosed with the disease.
Those waiting for kidney transplants can wait an average of five years said Luckers, but the time can be a little longer for African Americans.
The Marion Luckers Kidney Foundation’s 4th Annual Benefit Dinner and Silent Auction will be held on March 23 at the Crowne Plaza Philadelphia West Hotel at 4010 City Ave.
For more information visit the Marion Luckers Kidney Foundation at MLKidney.org.