BALTIMORE — March is National Kidney Month, a time to spread awareness about kidney disease, which affects more than 30 million adults in the U.S.
“Kidney disease is much more common than people realize,” said Johns Hopkins Assistant Professor of Medicine, Sumeska Thavarajah. “1 in 7 adults have kidney disease so that’s about 30 million adults in the US. 97% of them are not aware of it.”
Frank Meeder of Cockeysville was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease when he was 30 years old. It was the same disease that two of his three brothers ended up being diagnosed with, and the same disease that his mother passed away from.
“I was thin and an athlete. No one would think I had a disease like that,” said Meeder. “But my blood pressure was elevated.”
Lifestyle changes helped Meeder live with the disease for almost 22 years. That was until his health started to decline and he needed a transplant.
“It just hit me all of a sudden. All of a sudden I couldn’t move,” said Meeder. “That was probably 8 months before I had my transplant.”
After researching all of his options, Meeder knew that he wanted to go forward with a living donor.
“The bottom line was that you’re not on a waiting list,” said Meeder. “You move right up to the front. You have a living donor.”
That’s when Meeder’s sister-in-law Linda McGrain stepped in to help.
“Kathleen, my sister said oh we’re thinking about getting a transplant for Frank. Does anybody want to be a donor,” said McGrain. “I said oh yeah I’ll do it.”
It was a decision McGrain admits she was originally nervous about. But once she learned she was a close match, she knew she had to help.
“Like any surgery it’s scary but you do come through it,” said McGrain. “It takes a while to get back on your feet, but here I am.”
Now 15 years later both Meeder and McGrain are healthy, happy and living life.
“I think it’s a challenging journey for anyone with kidney disease,” said Thavarajah. “Frank is one of the lucky ones who’s been able to find a live donor.”
“Too many people are on the waiting list for a kidney,” said Meeder. “We want people to know that there’s potentially a living donor that could help you out.”
Now Meeder is hoping his story will help others and encourage them to seek out all of their options and resources.
“I want to let people know that there is hope,” said Meeder. “There is something at the end of this journey. There is hope.”