At the age of 51, Jerry Kimble has to spend a good chunk of his time getting dialysis.
But the longtime shoe shiner of Jerry’s Shoe Shine, who has shined shoes in Bellevue Square Mall’s Nordstrom, the Hyatt Regency and now Lincoln Square South, doesn’t let his failing kidneys impede his zest for life.
“Kidney disease is not a death sentence and despite what you hear, and the fears, you can do anything you want as long as you put your mind to it,” Kimble said. “Believe in yourself if you set out to accomplish what it is you want to do.”
March 8 is World Kidney Day and the month of March is National Kidney Month. Kidney disease affects one in 10 Americans.
Kimble’s doctor informed him his test results weren’t optimal back in January 2016, but he didn’t start dialysis — the process of removing waste and extra water out of a patient’s blood — until September of that year.
He waited, he said, because he had no symptoms. In fact, he had just lost a significant amount of weight having previously been 400 pounds.
“I was more or less bewildered,” Kimble said. “… I thought, ‘Hey, I’m feeling good, I have to watch what I eat, kick the salt and I’ll be OK,’ but when it hit me, now I have to deal with it.”
Although at first he was discouraged because his twin brother has been on dialysis for about eight years, he eventually found his routine and now visits Northwest Kidney Centers in Bellevue three times a week for four hours a day.
Northwest Kidney Centers was the first outpatient dialysis in the world and is the largest dialysis provider in King County. It has locations throughout Seattle, Snoqualmie and Kirkland to as far south as Auburn.
The Renton resident drives himself to those treatments and makes sure they work with his busy schedule as a shoe shiner. When he’s not getting dialysis or shining shoes – a practice in which he was trained by Morgan Perkins with best friend Alvin Horton – he’s an Uber driver.
Kimble eventually hopes to get a kidney transplant but the wait is between two and five years, he said.
Still, he’s hopeful.
Significant progress has been made in stem cell research in Australia and Kimble believes an artificial kidney will be on the market in eight to 10 years.
“If [dialysis] works, you can travel – limited travel but there’s ways where you can create a program at other clinics, so it’s not the end of the world just because you have kidney failure, kidney disease,” Kimble said. “You can live a strong, healthy, enjoyable life.”
For more information about Northwest Kidney Centers, visit www.nwkidney.org.