Dialysis patient and kidney failure survivor Tom Fossa addressed members of the Rotary Club of Claremore this week, enlightening them on the severity of CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease) through statistics and his personal story.
“I’m here today because kidney disease has become an epidemic in America, and I want to share some information — especially about kidney failure, which is due to one of two things, diabetes or high blood pressure,” said Fossa, intonations of his native New Jersey dialect still evident. “Approximately eight percent of the population has diabetes, one out of every three adult Americans has high blood pressure, 31 million Americans — one in six adults — have chronic kidney disease, and most don’t even know it.
“I’m a senior citizen, and just when I felt I’d been in this world long enough to relax and enjoy myself, I found our how wrong I was,” he continued. “Two years ago, I went into total kidney failure — another new life experience — I was scared and worried, with the fear that I may not survive — this is when some real serious prayers began.
“Fortunately, I was sent to DaVita Dialysis (Center), where I met some wonderful, caring and helpful people,” he said. They don’t want anyone to face this (disease) alone — they extend support and help to ease every patient’s concerns.”
Since beginning dialysis treatments — three a week at five hours a treatment — Fossa’s health has improved and he has become DaVita’s advocate and patient ambassador, easing new patients minds as they begin their own battles with kidney disease.
“I meet with all the patients on a one-to-one basis, explaining to them what dialysis treatments are,” he said. “I tell them on their first day of (dialysis) treatments that there was a time when I was in the same spot they’re in — it’s not a pretty picture to be a new patient — you’re scared, worried, and full of questions. My job is to try to ease their minds, to give them comfort. There was a time when I was the guy who refused dialysis treatment in the hospital, until I realized what the alternative (to treatment) is.”
By the time a patient is suffering from kidney failure, dialysis or a kidney transplant are their only “real hopes” for survival, Fossa said, and he “wanted to survive.”
“More than half a million people have ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease), and that number is estimated to double in the next decade,” he said. “Kidney disease is a killer and people need to be aware of it and how to be on the lookout for it.
“Kidney disease preventions include visiting your doctor routinely for checkups, monitor your blood pressure, take your medications as prescribed by your doctor, quit smoking, limit your sodium intake, exercise and stay active,” he said. “I’m not here for sympathy — I just want to help educate everyone on this subject. It can happen to anyone — I know this because it happened to me.”
Fossa concluded his address to the Rotarians with a question and answer session.