Monday, June 18, 2012

Walkin' It Like I Talk It

As a lifelong Detroit Lions fan (yes, I knew true suffering long before contracting kidney disease) I never dreamed I'd ever write these words, but I can't wait to set foot on the green grass of Chicago's Soldier Field this Sunday.

EXTREMELY busy week for my alter ego as Kid Kidney. First, on Thursday, I'll be up north in Deerfield, Ill., at the headquarters of the healthcare giant that manufactured my dialysis supplies. (I dare not ever whisper their name on these pages again; I won't bore you with the details except to say, there are lawyers circling in cyberspace.)

I'm delighted to lend my in-person support and say a few syllables at the kickoff event for the company's African American Business Resource Group (BRG), a new unit tasked with increasing awareness and education about diseases that affect the black community disproportionately. It's a commendable effort, and much needed.

On Friday I'll be in Columbus, Ohio, attending my first meeting as a member of the Patient Leadership Committee for the Renal Network, Inc., a position I was proud to accept after that organization honored me with its Robert Felter Memorial Award last year.

My first day with any new group scares up memories of my first day in high school, college, or any new job. Please, Lord, don't let me say or do anything stupid.

Oh, but Sunday! Sunday, that should be my funday. That's the morning I will join more than 1,500 fellow kidney disease conquerors and the people who love them on the Soldier Field Great Lawn to participate in the 13th Annual Gift of Life Walk, Run and Roll along the shores of Lake Michigan.

It's especially poignant for me because little more than three years ago, due to the gout in both feet brought on by my kidney disease, I could barely walk or stand without assistance. Sunday, I'm looking forward to tackling the whole Gift of Life route with long, purposeful strides. Hallelujah!

The National Kidney Foundation of Illinois (NKFI), which stages the free event, has asked me to say a few words before the walkers, runners and rollers hit the streets. I'm excited to do so, although I know I'm almost certain to be upstaged: The speakers also will include an adorable 4-year-old named Izabelle Cary, who was born with only one kidney and has had to undergo dialysis most of her life.

I learned it from my years in the newspaper business: put a cute kid or a fuzzy puppy on the front page, and that's all anybody's going to talk about!

Hey, I'm not afraid of a little (no pun intended) competition! I'm showing up at 9 a.m. regardless! If you're in the Chicagoland area Sunday, you should join us. NKFI is a marvelous organization, and all funds raised will go to programs designed to prevent kidney disease and make life better for the individuals and families already affected by it.

You can pre-register or help raise funds at the website,, or contact the beautiful Devon Albert, NKFI's special events coordinator, for more information at (312) 321-1500.

Hope to see you there. Kid Kidney rides again! Hi-Yo, Cheyenne! Awaaay!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Maybe the Greatest Thing Ever Invented

My blood tests this morning to monitor my kidney function went like every other blood sample sucked out of me every week for the past six months – that is, until the supervising nurse spied the green bracelet with the medical symbol on my right wrist. "What is that?" she asked.

What, indeed. I have been meaning to tell you about my Care Medical History Bracelet for the longest time, but it has grown so comfortable on my body that I'd all but forgotten about it until the nurse roused my memory.

Shortly after my kidney transplant last November, my magnificent wife, Karen, realizing that my list of medical advisories, medications and other vital information suddenly increased a dozenfold, went online to, found this brilliantly simple little band and gave it to me as a gift.

The Care device is the next generation, 21st century edition of the medic alert bracelet. It fastens securely around your wrist, but when you pull it apart – Voila! A computer flash drive is contained within.

Plug it into your home computer and, with the aid of some pre-loaded software, you can input every bit of essential information about yourself and your medical condition – medicines, dosages, blood type, primary physicians and specialists, emergency contacts. There's even a place to download a photo to prove it really is you wearing your bracelet.

So if you are involved in a major calamity or trip over a chair in your office and knock yourself loopy, everything any emergency medical technician would need to know about your health is available to them via their nearest computer without you having to mumble a word. And the information is easily updated, making Care a huge upgrade over the traditional engraved alert bracelet.

It only costs about $30, and takes no more than an hour or so to fill in the necessary blanks. (If you've been careful to compile all your data in advance, that is.) In a perfect world, I'm thinking, every man, woman and child would have one of these bad boys strapped on tight. Next step: Computer chips implanted in your ear, just like your Cockapoo!

The Care website says the bracelet is waterproof, but I take it off when I bathe anyway. Can't be too careful where metal and water are concerned. Two drawbacks, though. Far as I can tell, the flash drive software is readable on both Macs and PCs, but you can only input data on a PC. So if you're an Apple addict (like me), you'll probably have to borrow a PC from somebody to create your profile.

Second, and more critical, as my supervising nurse noted today, YOU CANNOT LOSE THIS THING. More than wearing your heart on your sleeve, with Care you literally are wearing your life on your wrist. And since there's apparently no way to lock the flash drive's info (nor would you really want to), the Care Medical History Bracelet could be an identity thief's wet dream.

But the positives far outweigh the negatives, in my view. You just need to take extreme care with Care. And like the infomercials say, "Makes a great gift."