By Cynthia Flash
Special to the Bellevue Reporter
For 20 years, Bellevue resident Robin Franzi worked as a corporate financial analyst. Then two years ago, she learned her kidneys were failing.
“Sheer exhaustion,” is how she explains it. “But because of the way I was pushing myself and always did, I had been exhausted for a long time and had ignored it.”
When she could no longer ignore it, she went to see her doctor and learned an autoimmune disease had damaged her kidneys so badly that she needed to start dialysis, the treatment that keeps a person alive by cleaning the blood when kidneys can’t.
That was Mother’s Day weekend 2012. Now, nearly two years later, the Northwest Kidney Centers patient gives herself dialysis at home. Now, she said, that is her “job.” It’s also a way for her to take control of her medical treatment.
During March, National Kidney Health Month, Franzi took control another way — by flying to Washington, D.C., as a volunteer with Dialysis Patient Citizens to lobby Congress to maintain funding for kidney patients now and in the future.
She made arrangements to receive dialysis treatments at a clinic two of the five days she was there. The rest of the time she met with representatives from Washington state and Utah — seven in one day.
“It was like Shark Tank on Groundhog Day on fast forward,” she said of the whirlwind experience, all at a blustery 30 degrees.
This was Franzi’s second trip to the nation’s capitol to lobby for kidney patients. She believes speaking out is as important as knowing the facts about kidney disease. Facts like these:
One in seven adult Americans — more than 30 million people — have chronic kidney disease; most don’t know it.
Chronic kidney disease is progressive and irreversible; it can be slowed down with nutrition, exercise and medication.
Simple tests at a doctor’s office can detect kidney disease in early stages, before the damage is severe. Ask your caregiver if you are at risk.
“Kidney disease hits all ages, shapes, forms and there’s many types,” Franzi said. “It often goes undetected for a long time. Pay attention, learn what your kidneys do and make sure they’re functioning. I can’t articulate well what it’s like to not have them. You don’t want to find out.”
And she believes through research care can be improved. That’s why she put herself out there as a patient lobbyist. “I felt it was very important to be there. I felt fortunate to be a voice for other patients who weren’t able to be there that week,” she said.
For more information about kidney disease, visit www.nwkidney.org.
Cynthia Flash lives in Bellevue.