"I had no symptoms. I found out that I had kidney disease through routine lab tests. I was 25."
Over this past summer I changed jobs to work at a dialysis center in Washington D.C. so that I could learn more about how nutrition could help people with advanced chronic kidney disease. In the past few months I have definitely learned so much more about therapeutic nutrition and evidenced-based guidelines for this population, but the most valuable part of my job so far has been making connections with patients and broadening my perspective about what the daily life is like for a person with end stage renal disease. I have learned that very simple thoughts can quickly become much more complicated when you have chronic kidney disease. For example, when planning for an upcoming weekend, the following thoughts might cross your mind:
"Let's try out that new restaurant tonight!"
"Let's hit the beach this weekend."
"Let's meet up at the stadium for Saturday's game."
People with chronic kidney disease may also have those thoughts as well, but they are usually followed with additional questions like the following:
"Let's try out that new restaurant tonight!" "Will the new restaurant offer anything renal-friendly that I can eat?"
"Let's hit the beach this weekend." "Are there any dialysis centers near the beach so that I can go to my Saturday treatment?" "If I go in the water, will my access area become infected?"
"Let's meet up at the stadium for the game." "Will I be too tired after dialysis to go to the game?" "Is the weather going to be too hot? I might drink too much water if I am thirsty."
While additional questions may vary from person to person, I have learned that successfully managing a chronic disease like kidney disease requires constant attention, daily adjustments, and extra planning. Not only is this time consuming, but it can also be mentally tolling. If you know anyone with chronic kidney disease, I ask that you encourage them and show them how much you support them and all of their daily efforts battling their disease.
If you would like to learn more about chronic kidney disease, please visit the National Kidney Foundation website at