By Joyce Williams
National Kidney Foundation of Michigan
For many of the 900,000 people in Michigan with chronic kidney disease or kidney failure, going to a dialysis center is a part of life.
During what can be up to a six-year wait for a kidney transplant, dialysis keeps people alive. Currently, 13,667 Michiganders are living on dialysis.
Belleville resident Charisse Kimble, 51, has been going to a dialysis center three times a week for four hours a day for the past 26 years.
Hemodialysis, as it is also called, is the process of sending a person’s blood through a machine to cleanse the blood of toxins and waste that would normally be filtered out by the kidneys. Although far from a cure, dialysis allows a person without kidney function to survive.
While growing up, Charisse’s kidneys functioned normally. In May 1990, at age 23, she began to notice that her urine looked strange — it had bubbles in it. After running some tests, her doctor told her that her kidneys were leaking protein and not functioning at full capacity.
A biopsy revealed that she had IgM Nephropathy, an autoimmune disease that reduces the kidneys’ ability to filter blood. A year later, she started dialysis. At the time, Charisse had been working as a sales secretary and caring for her 3-year-old son James. She had to leave her job, due to needing time off for dialysis and not feeling well enough to work on some days.
“This was a very difficult thing for me to accept,” said Charisse. “This can’t happen to me. I’m too strong for that.” With her positive attitude, she was determined to do what was important to her and not let dialysis control her life completely. Charisse wanted another child and hoped for a girl. Her daughter Breonna was born in 1993.
In 2003, she underwent a kidney transplant at Henry Ford Health System. But immediately, she knew something was wrong. The anti-rejection medications, which organ recipients must take for the rest of their lives, caused serious side effects. Charisse promised her family that she would tough it out for a year but the side effects did not subside. She discontinued the medications and discovered that she had a better quality of life on dialysis.
In October of 2017, Charisse began working as a paid intern at the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan (NKFM) in Ann Arbor. In May 2018, she formed a fundraising team and walked in the NKFM’s annual Kidney Walk at the Detroit Zoo. She plans to attend with her “Team Triumph” again in 2019.
She has learned to be a Kidney PATH instructor and will co-lead her first workshop in Ypsilanti later this spring. Kidney PATH, a no-cost program offered by the NKFM, is an eight-week workshop that teaches people with kidney disease how to stay healthy and manage living with their disease.
She is also training to be an NKFM peer mentor, someone who meets one-on-one with people newly diagnosed with kidney disease to answer questions, provide support, and assist with navigating the health care system. She currently works part-time at the NKFM as a program assistant in preventive services.
Despite the necessary dialysis visits, Charisse lives a full and joyful life. James and Breonna live close by and she has five grandchildren to spoil. She credits her successful life to her positive attitude and an excellent support system, including her extended family and her adopted NKFM “family”.
She enjoys movies, bowling and gardening. “I haven’t given up hope,” said Charisse. “There are new procedures all the time — you never know what science may come up with.”
She also encourages people with kidney disease not to give up, stating, “Take each day as it comes. If you feel well, get up and go have a good day. If you don’t feel well, go back to bed and try again tomorrow. When you have your good days, maximize them and live!”
For more information about kidney disease, visit nkfm.org .
By Joyce Williams