Alberta family impacted by kidney disease raising awareness during kidney health month

CALGARY — Theresa Shearlaw will likely have a kidney transplant this year. Her sister is a match to be an organ donor.

“I’ll be able to walk around town again, not the block like I’m used to, I’ll be able to eat,” said Shearlaw who said she currently follows a limited diet.

According to The Kidney Foundation of Canada, one in 10 Canadians are impacted by kidney disease, which is more than four million Canadians.

Shearlaw has been living with kidney disease for more than 30 years. She said her kidneys are currently operating at seven percent.

The disease can be hereditary. Both Shearlaw’s adult sons also have kidney disease. Her older son is starting the process to have a transplant.

“I figure I have to be strong enough for my kids because they’re going to go through this,” Shearlaw said.

Shearlaw and her husband, who is the mayor of Three Hills, Alberta are doing what they can to spread awareness of how common the disease is. The couple runs The Capital, a community newspaper. Every week this month, during kidney health month, they are publishing articles about kidney disease.

“You take 10 people in a room and pick one. There’s one person in this room that most likely is affected by kidney disease, so we’re trying to make people aware,” said Tim Shearlaw.

“People have to realize how important it is to take care of your health, not just your heart and your lungs but your kidneys,” said Theresa.

SILENT SYMPTOMS

According to The Kidney Foundation of Canada, kidney disease is more prevalent than people would imagine.

“Kidney disease has lots of silent symptoms that often creep up on people very unexpectedly doing damage along the way that people are unaware of,” said Joyce Van Deurzen, executive director, The Kidney Foundation of Canada, Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan branch.

“If it’s caught early there’s a lot that can be done to delay the progression of kidney disease, so that’s why awareness is so important.”

The foundation said one of the main jobs of the kidneys is to remove waste from the blood and return cleaned blood back to the body. The kidneys also maintain fluid, acid and mineral balances and produce hormones that regulate blood pressure.

Kidney disease is linked to other conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. More than 45 per cent of people with kidney disease are under the age of 65. Sometimes even people with serious kidney disease have no symptoms. A blood or urine test is needed to check for kidney problems.

“It’s a very serious illness. There is no cure and kidneys are a major organ in the body and you cannot survive without kidney function,” said Deurzen.

Dialysis and transplants are current treatments.

The Kidney Foundation said the pandemic has also had an impact on cases. Some people suffering severe cases of COVID-19 have shown signs of kidney damage, even those who had no underlying conditions before they were infected with the virus.

There has also been a 39 per cent drop in new organ donor registrations in Canada during the pandemic this last year.

Deurzen said for some, kidney disease is hereditary. But a healthy lifestyle, and no smoking can help prevent the disease.

More information can be found online.

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