Kidney Month (March) is important for Richard Bernreiter.
In 2009, Bernreiter was first diagnosed with IgA Nephropathy; a disorder that causes inflammation of the tiny filtering units of the kidney, called glomeruli. Before being diagnosed, Bernreiter followed a healthy lifestyle and felt no symptoms. After going to Thunder Bay Regional Health Science Centre (TBRHSC) to seek treatment for gout, Bernreiter was diagnosed with a more serious health issue. “I was shocked to hear that there could be something wrong with my kidneys. I thought the doctors had to be wrong, but the biopsy of my kidneys showed a clear indication of IgA Nephropathy and I was told there was nothing I did to cause it”, said Bernreiter.
By January 2013, Bernreiter’s kidney function had dropped dramatically. The main job of kidneys is to remove toxins and excess water from your blood, but they also control blood pressure, make urine, produce red blood cells and keep bones strong. “As a kidney gets worse, you become sicker and sicker. Your energy levels decrease, you experience muscle cramps, and you constantly feel unwell”, states Bernreiter. While he waited to find a candidate for a kidney transplant, Bernreiter underwent chemotherapy to bring down the swelling of his kidneys. Six months of chemotherapy showed no progress and Bernreiter was forced to begin dialysis immediately following. He chose to use peritoneal dialysis treatment, which consists of removing waste products in the blood through fluid exchange. This was a turning point for Bernreiter.
On August 14, 2014, Bernreiter had a kidney transplant. Although it can take years for patients to find a donor, Bernreiter did not have to look far. His wife, Carole, was a match and donated one of her healthy kidneys to Bernreiter. Almost 2 years later, Bernreiter is healthy, happy and continually thankful to his wife. He confesses, “How do you even say thank you to someone who gives you a gift like that?”
In Canada, 1 in 10 people are diagnosed with kidney disease and millions more are at risk for developing the disease. Raising awareness about kidney health is important to Bernreiter. “My story isn’t unique; there are too many families facing the same challenges we had. In my case, the diagnosis I received was unpreventable. However if there is a chance for you to protect your kidneys, then I urge you to take action”, encourages Bernreiter.
On March 10th, Bernreiter will be helping to host an education and awareness booth at TBRHSC, in partnership with The Kidney Foundation of Canada and the Northwest Regional Renal Program. The booth will support ongoing initiatives throughout the month of March, including World Kidney Day. Join staff, volunteers and patients to learn more about the impact your kidneys have on your overall health and well-being.
For more information about kidney disease, visit: www.kidney.ca/ontario