Kidney Diet Hero, 4th Place Winning Essay, 18th Annual Essay Contest

By Joseph Hardison

I was a southern boy growing up in North Carolina, so food is just a part of my heritage. Every Sunday after church all the family would meet at a relative’s house for a huge meal. Country ham, fried chicken, collards, boiled potatoes, and all the desserts one hungry boy could dream of. And oh, did I ever enjoy those Sunday dinners!

At this point in my life I could do anything. Apart from my regular job, I served on the board of directors of the chamber of commerce, as an EMT on the rescue squad, and as a part-time teacher at the local community college. Also a veteran, and a single father of a wild playful little boy. Yes, I was the hero of the day. On any day for that matter. “Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings with a single bound, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s . . . ” I thought nothing could tear me down. Things have a way of changing when you think you have life in control.

It comes down to choices as a word to replace restrictions

Slowly and insidiously I began to falter. After many appointments it came down to announcing my kidneys had failed. FSGS was the bandit that was stealing my life. Soon I received a transplant from my brother, but with all that there were the lifestyle changes, medicine, and especially the new diet. But this transplant lasted for over 27 years. Somewhat of a record. I wanted to be the poster child of transplant successes.

But fate began working on me again. I was extremely compliant about my medicines and doctor appointments, but slowly my replacement part was wearing out. Inevitably I knew I was going back on dialysis. And with dialysis comes the diet restrictions. Watch your potassium. Watch your phosphorus. And by all means watch the sodium and fluid restriction.

It comes down to choices as a word to replace restrictions. You can decide not to dialyze and that brings up another limit. The limit on life; about two months or less without it. Or you can decide to choose life and make good choices.

Learning to read labels was a big education. All the surprising places to hide the sodium. I believe the food industry is killing Americans slowly with all the sodium and additives. Just ask any dietician and I believe they will agree.

Eliminating prepared food and canned foods wasn’t all that hard. I just went back to my roots. Fresh is best so I choose fresh over canned. And what do you know? It works. I keep the sodium as low as possible and truthfully, even my family doesn’t miss it. As a matter of fact, we have noticed that we are more taste conscious of food with too much salt. We just don’t eat it.

My phosphorus is well-controlled with my binders. I have realized that trying to always eat a healthy amount of meat and fish keeps my albumin at the proper level without over-doing my meal with the phosphorus-laden foods.

I now only consume brewed iced tea or water, adapting well to life without soft drinks. I truly thought this would be a challenge, but I was able to lay those down without a problem. I have really not missed those sugary drinks at all.

Now remember, I’m still that good old country boy at heart that loves tomatoes, potatoes, melons, and bananas… but here again are choices, and this time it is portion size. Oh yes, I could eat a lot of all these foods, but I have found that keeping the portions to the recommended limits does give me at least a taste of the foods I love. A small taste is enough to satisfy me until my next opportunity. I don’t have to overdo it.

The challenges on the kidney diet are just what we make them. Options and choices are available to help us have a long, happy life. Even though we may not be superheroes, we can still be a hero for so many who still depend on us. No; I am not faster than a speeding bullet and certainly not as powerful as a locomotive, and not even close to leaping a tall building with a single bound, but I am making good choices to be there for those that love me.

Listen as Joseph Hardison reads his essay:

la versión en español de Cuarto lugar El héroe de la dieta renal por Joseph Hardison aqui

Joseph (Joe) Hardison has been a kidney patient for 30 years having experiences many miracles along the way.  He developed kidney failure in October 1989 and by December he was blessed with a kidney from his half-brother.  Miracle number one was the almost perfect antigen match.  This transplant lasted 27 years and he considers this his second miracle since he was told by the doctors that at most 10 years could be expected.  The third miracle came from the announcement that Joe and his wife Pat were going to have a child.  This was discovered at Pats ObGyn appointment on the one-year anniversary of Joe’s transplant.

As time went on 27 years went fast and Joe’s kidney once again failed and he found himself back on dialysis but awaiting a second transplant hopefully by the end of 2020.  Although Joe’s nephew Erickson cannot donate directly to him, they will participate in the swap-match program through Vidant Transplant Services.  This service connects donors and recipients in the United States to facilitate transplant when a living donor is difficult to find.

Joe continues to share the gospel of Jesus Christ as this is where his blessings come.  He also makes himself available to all those who want to learn that there is life after kidney failure.

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