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1 in 3 Arizonans are at risk for kidney disease and COVID-19 has made things worse

Diabetes Drug
Posted at 5:38 AM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 14:29:18-05

PHOENIX — If there is one thing coronavirus has done, it has brought health issues to light.

"Sadly the mortality rate, if you are hospitalized by COVID and have kidney disease, is significantly higher,” says Chief Executive Officer of the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona, Leslie Azurdia McReynolds.

Vulnerable and at high risk for getting sick or even dying from coronavirus, 63-year-old Filiberto Herrera shares his story of how he got infected with COVID-19. He says he was very careful in 2020 and never even attended a family gathering. But on Jan. 9, he decided it would be OK to attend his daughter’s birthday party -- and that’s when he got COVID-19.

“I got to the hospital very sick, with blood clots that showed up during dialysis, and I have seven pre-existing conditions. I was sure I wasn’t going to make it,” says Herrera.

Herrera is a kidney disease patient who is on dialysis. Dialysis is the name given to the process of having a machine filter the toxins in the blood due to the lack of function in the kidneys because of kidney failure.

"It is common for an individual to find out too late down the road that they have kidney issues because kidney disease has such silent symptoms,” adds Azurdia McReynolds.

The National Kidney Foundation of Arizona is an organization of last resort that helps kidney patients with any type of need, including but not limited to: transportation, rent and utility assistance, and nutritional and medical help. The help comes at a time when patients have exhausted other resources for assistance. A kidney patient will usually have other health conditions that make the patient’s health even more debilitating.

In Herrera’s case, he wasn’t getting enough protein because his diabetes had caused him to lose most of his teeth and his food wasn't being fully processed.

"We were able to step in and help him with that dental award. The same would go for an individual who maybe can’t afford their medication, for their transplant. Or an individual facing hardship due to the pandemic and just needs help with the rent that month,” adds Azurdia McReynolds.

In the last six months, the foundation has seen a 20% increase in patients needing assistance. Azurdia McReynolds says she is keenly aware that COVID is causing more damage in people who are at risk for kidney failure and simply don’t know it.

"We also have concern for those patients being created by COVID; there is a high chance for getting acute kidney injury by COVID specifically, so we anticipate greater need moving forward with our foundation."

In order to assist the community in learning their "kidney health," the group has put out a quiz online that anyone can take to assess their level of risk for kidney disease.