Consuela Didn’t Know She Had Kidney Disease
Consuella Brass was an active woman. She went to the gym, played with her nieces and nephews and often worked more than full-time.
“I felt fine – just fatigued,” says the 44-year-old. At first she attributed feeling tired to her hectic work schedule but began to suspect there was more going on. She visited her family doctor for routine tests, hoping for answers but not expecting the one she got. The next day her doctor called saying the test indicated significant loss of kidney function. Brass was shocked.
Brass, like many Manitobans, hadn’t given kidney disease much thought. The problem with this is kidney disease can be sneaky and silent, often wreaking havoc without you even knowing it. By the time the disease is recognized a lot of damage may have been done and it’s irreversible.
Brass estimates she had been living with the disease for at least a year before the discovery. The good news is that with help from an interdisciplinary Manitoba Renal Program health-care team, Brass was able to manage her kidney disease for five years, without needing to go on dialysis.
“Diet, exercise and medication,” she says, listing the three ways she managed her disease. Brass stuck to the instructions her health-care team gave her, eating properly (people with kidney disease have specific food restrictions), exercising and taking her medications. “They told me I had taken such good care of myself, I would stay stable.”
When the disease is not managed properly, dialysis can be needed sooner or might be started in an emergency situation. Also people can tend to feel sicker and more fatigued than they might with proper management.
Brass’ health only recently changed and she had to start on peritoneal dialysis, a gentler form of dialysis that helps clean toxins from the blood stream and can be done at home. Brass said the renal health-care team helped to ensure a smooth transition. “They knew exactly how I felt,” she says. “It’s such a relief to have someone understand exactly what you are going through. It’s real peace of mind and you know exactly what to expect.”
Brass has taken some time off work since starting dialysis because how she feels often fluctuates from one week to the next. She’s taken time to have discussions with family to ensure they know about kidney disease and find out if they are at risk. “All my sister’s got tested.”
The next step for Brass is a kidney transplant. Her sister is a match and they are hoping to have a spring transplant operation.
*UPDATE* Nov. 2012: Consuella is currently recovering well from a kidney transplant. Stay tuned for more of Consuella’s story in the new future.
Story by Amie Lesyk
What Consuella Thinks You Should Know: