The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Dialysis Support Group presented “Good Kidney Awareness Today Leads to a Healthier Tomorrow,” a two-day conference held August 16-17 at the Lehi Community Building.
The conference was held to help educate the Community about kidney disease and dialysis support. SRPMIC Vice-President Martin Harvier gave the opening welcome.
Harvier remembered his father, a hard-working farmer, who had to take insulin to control his diabetes.
“Growing up in Parker, Arizona, I remember my dad worked in the farm area. He was probably about five feet, six inches tall and he was real stocky. I never really saw him out of shape; he was a real hard worker,” said Harvier. “But, I remember at one point where he was giving himself shots because he became a diabetic. I knew that it was always in my family on my dad’s side.”
Harvier sits on the National Indian Health Board for the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona. One of their priorities is to make sure that funding for the diabetes-prevention programs in Indian Country isn’t taken away.
“There are a lot of cuts because of the budget; they are looking at cutting a lot of the programs and they are trying to fight for those funds for diabetes,” Harvier said.
“I was part of a diabetes-prevention study done through the University of Washington for five years,” said Harvier. “When the results of the study came back, it said exercise and diet is what is needed to make the change for upcoming generations.”
Education, Fun and Support
Dialysis Support Group member Etheleen Osif gave a brief history of the support group and shared her story. The group started after her own experience with kidney disease took a toll on her. She was fortunate to have a kidney transplant in 1998 and waited on the transplant list for only four months.
“I was very happy. I only waited four months, and [after the transplant] I was able to do stuff again, and I felt that I needed to give back,” said Osif about starting the Dialysis Support Group. “I tried to [plan] activities for our people because I know it’s hard to get out sometimes; just do something for them to come out [to the support group meeting] and enjoy instead of staying at home. [The support group is] a place you can feel like you’re with your own, with people who are also on dialysis, because we need that support.”
Osif said the support patients receive from the Dialysis Support Group helps not only those on dialysis, but their family and friends as well. She explained it is important to educate your family members about what you’re going through while on dialysis, and that it can be difficult and stressful at times and there may be days when you don’t want to do anything.
Following Osif’s talk, Salt River Fire Department Fire Captain Brian Smith, Deputy Fire Marshal Julie Evert and Firefighter/Paramedic Jason Barker shared a few ways people on dialysis can help the fire department if they ever need to call for medical assistance. The department stressed the importance of having your complete medical information on hand, and to aid in this effort they handed out a form and a zip-top plastic bag with a first-aid symbol on it. They asked dialysis patients, and anyone with chronic medical issues, to fill out the form with their medical information and place it in the bag and on their refrigerator. This will help paramedics quickly identify an individual’s health issues and how to treat them. They also encouraged people to keep their medications nearby and have them in their original containers so that they can be easily identified.
Smith recalled the flood in 1993 where they almost evacuated Lehi residents, and he asked them to make preparations to have their medicine with them in case of an emergency.
During lunch, Ron Carlos sang some Piipaash songs and there was a performance by the group “Tina and the Native Ladies,” a Tina Turner impersonation by Roberta Johnston with backup dancers Roberta Seepie and Colleen Stone.
Jennifer Weil, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic Transplant Center, talked about the benefits of identifying kidney disease early, when the damage can be slowed or prevented. She highlighted the programs the Mayo Clinic offers, including a journal for pre–kidney transplant candidates where patients can do self-referrals for physician visits and what testing needs to be done. Weil said it’s a committee decision whether or not the patient will be put on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.
She also shared information about the United Network for Organ Sharing, living kidney donation and paired exchanges. Right now the average waiting time for a kidney from a deceased donor is three to five years; but if you have someone who wants to donate, you can call the living donor coordinator, who will explain the process and some special programs. A paired exchange, for example, could be an Arizona couple where the husband wants to donate a kidney to his wife, but he is not a good match. A search can be done to identify another couple elsewhere, say in Vermont, with the same problem. Maybe the Vermont husband’s kidney would be a match for the Arizona wife, and the Arizona husband could donate his kidney to the Vermont wife.
The event concluded with a question-and-answer panel discussion and sharing experiences of being on dialysis.
Osif said, “I’d like to recognize the people that helped put this conference together: Janice Antone, Rosten Cashoya, Lola Martinez, Colleen Stone, Leland Johnson, Leona Maldonado, Sharron and Maggie Manuel, Vice-President Martin Harvier, the Mother and Fatherhood Program, and Senior Services Staff. They worked hard. I would also like to thank all the groups who helped with the raffle prizes: Salt River Sand and Rock, Casino Arizona, the Johnson Family and more.”