DEAR ABBY: I was a healthy, vibrant mother of one with a steady government job. I saw my doctor regularly for checkups, since both my parents have high blood pressure. As an active, health-conscious vegetarian, I thought I was at my physical peak.
When I experienced nausea and lower back pain, I expected my doctor to tell me my 4-year-old daughter was going to have a sister or brother. Instead, I was informed that my kidneys were barely working and I needed to see a specialist at once. That's when my life began spinning out of control. I was told I would need dialysis to keep me alive!
How could this happen? Where were the warning signs and symptoms? Why wasn't my kidney function checked during previous doctor visits? There were no answers to these questions.
No one in my family was able to donate a kidney to me because everyone had high blood pressure. So I went on dialysis and learned everything I could about kidney disease. After 10 years of dialysis, I finally received a successful kidney transplant.
Many people don't realize that high blood pressure and diabetes are the two leading causes of kidney disease. More than 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease, and millions more are at risk. Screening for kidney function is not part of a routine physical examination, and kidney disease generally shows no symptoms -- so if you have a family history of high blood pressure or diabetes, you are at risk.
Simple blood and urine tests could save your life. So please don't put off what you can take care of today. Tomorrow could be too late. -- DAWN P. EDWARDS, LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y.
DEAR DAWN: Thank you for your informative eye-opener of a letter. I am pleased that you finally got your kidney transplant because I know what a life-changing difference it has made for you and your daughter -- truly a new beginning.
Readers, March is National Kidney Month, and March 13 is World Kidney Day. That's the day the National Kidney Foundation holds free screenings in 30 cities across the country. The screening program is called "KEEP," or Kidney Early Evaluation Program.
You can learn more about kidney disease by visiting � HYPERLINK "http://www.kidney.org" ��www.kidney.org�. To find the KEEP screening nearest you, log onto � HYPERLINK "http://www.keeponline.org" ��www.keeponline.org�, or call the National Kidney Foundation toll-free at 800-622-9010.