Kidney supporters, including a UCF College of Medicine team called “Renal 9-1-1: COM Cares About Kidneys,” raised $51,622 Sunday at the 2013 Orlando National Kidney Foundation (NKF) walk. The 5K trek, held for the first time at Lake Nona’s Medical City, raised money for research and treatments, and to support families and patients dealing with kidney disease.
Over 26 million Americans — 1 in 9 adults — have chronic kidney disease, and most don’t know it. Because symptoms may not appear until the kidneys are actually failing, millions of people with kidney damage remain unaware and are not taking steps to protect their health.
Currently, about 400,000 Americans depend on kidney dialysis to stay alive and close to 90, 000 are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. Each year, 112,000 people are diagnosed with kidney failure – one person every five minutes.
Dr. Abdo Asmar, assistant professor of internal medicine at the College of Medicine, and a practicing nephrologist at UCF Pegasus Health, the college’s physician practice, serves on the board of the Florida NKF. He helped get this year’s walk at Medical City and welcomed participants to the event. Walkers included kidney patients, those who had received transplants and “heroes,” who had donated a kidney to a person in need. Thanking participants on behalf of “your College of Medicine,” Dr. Asmar told the crowd, “We’re walking to help all of those who are dealing with chronic kidney disease.”
First-year medical student Andrew Schiff had a personal reason for walking. His mother was recently diagnosed with kidney disease. She didn’t know she had the condition until she tried to get life insurance for her two sons and a physical found an inflammatory kidney condition called Minimal Change Disease in which large amounts of protein is abnormally lost in the urine.
At Andrew’s suggestion, the College of Medicine walkers designed their own T-shirts with slogans, pictures of kidneys and hearts to show that “COM Cares About Kidneys.” Andrew’s shirt had a large sun and the words, “Momma’s Boy.”
“My mom’s condition really puts into perspective why I came to medical school,” he said. “Being able to get up on a Sunday morning and walk for someone else, it’s why I’m here. Why I wanted to go into medicine.
First-year medical students Alex Eskandari and Jasmine Steele helped lead the Renal 9-1-1 team and both are studying aspects of kidney disease for their Focused Inquiry and Research Experience (FIRE) projects. They are examining the prevalence of foot ulcers in non-diabetic kidney patients, why such patients are prone to the ulcers, and how to prevent the condition. Such ulcers can be difficult to treat and may result in leg amputation. Alex, Dr. Asmar and other walkers said they hope events like the 5K help increase awareness of kidney disease.
“When you have kidney disease, everything changes,” said Alex. “Yet the public and families don’t seem to know how serious a problem kidney disease is.”