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Raising Awareness During National Kidney Month

It’s known as the “silent” illness.

Doctors say kidney disease is becoming a serious challenge in the United States, but they’re hoping to raise awareness this March during National Kidney Month.

“It started three to four years ago,” said Heber Hammon, a patient at Liberty Dialysis in Idaho Falls.

Hammon said he has been battling kidney disease since he ended up in the hospital, retaining so much fluid his calves were 18 inches around..

“I gained 4 inches around my waist and it started to go up in my lungs,” said Hammon.

Treatment brings the Idaho Falls man to Liberty Dialysis at the Idaho Kidney Center three times a week for four hours at a time. The dialysis machine cleanses his blood of toxins since his kidneys can’t.

“I think the worst part is needles going into the arm,” said Hammon of the 14-gauge needles.

“We see people that struggle day-to-day,” said Phyllisha Harris, who manages the dialysis clinic. “Most are able to cope and this becomes part of their lifestyle.”

Aside from a transplant for those who qualify, dialysis is a last resort.

Dr. Michael Haderlie is hoping to change growing U.S. statistics with more awareness this March during national kidney month.

“People tend to be without symptoms until kidney function is below 20 percent,” said Haderlie.

That’s why it’s called a “silent” disease, and because symptoms are becoming more and more common, said Haderlie, like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

“If you have known risk factors in family members, you better get in and have a physician take a look,” said Haderlie.

Haderlie said keeping kidneys healthy isn’t rocket science: eat well, exercise and ditch tobacco products entirely.

But for those who’ve passed the point of prevention, like Hammon, dialysis is a life saver.

“Without dialysis, it shortens your life,” said Hammon. “I’d rather live a little bit longer than not.”

Haderlie said the Idaho Kidney Center treats about 7,000 patients in southeastern Idaho. He said several hundred are on dialysis.

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