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by Abigail Van Buren

Early Screening for Disease Can Prevent Kidney Failure

DEAR ABBY: I was a healthy 12-year-old girl in junior high, sociable and energetic with no cares in the world, until one day my mother noticed I wasn't my usual self. I was tired and had no interest in any activities. Frustrated, she encouraged me to try out for my school's volleyball team.

What was supposed to be a routine physical for the team turned into a life-changing experience. I did not end up making the team. Instead I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. My test results showed that I had too much protein in my urine. After more tests, I was told I was in kidney failure.

I was only 12, and I didn't understand why this was happening to me. Nobody was expecting the news we got that day. The doctors told my parents that I would need to go on dialysis or have a kidney transplant and we should start looking for a donor.

A urine test was never part of any of my annual checkups. But protein in the urine is one of the earliest signs of kidney disease. That simple test might have prevented me from losing both kidneys.

Nearly 100,000 men, women and children are now on the waiting list for a lifesaving organ transplant. One hundred people are added to the list -- and 17 die -- every day. With early detection kidney disease can be prevented. So please urge your readers to get screened now and screened often. -- KLARISSA RAMIREZ, MINNEAPOLIS

DEAR KLARISSA: Thank you for your letter. I was, frankly, shocked to learn from it that kidney disease could strike a person at such a tender age. I'm pleased to pass along your important message.

Readers, March is National Kidney Month -- and March 12 is World Kidney Day. The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) has a screening program called KEEP, which stands for Kidney Early Evaluation Program. On World Kidney Day, KEEP will offer FREE screenings in cities across the country for people at risk for kidney disease.

If you or a family member has diabetes or high blood pressure, or if there is a history of kidney disease in your family, visit kidney.org to learn more and locate a screening near you, or call the National Kidney Foundation at 1-800-622-9010.