By Kevin Longino, CEO of National Kidney Foundation and kidney transplant patient
With ambulance sirens ringing out in most large cities across the U.S., NKF is sounding the alarm to ensure kidney patients receive the same access to lifesaving COVID-19 care as those without an underlying health condition. As we continue to advocate on behalf of patients, we are also seeing a whole new group of Americans at risk for developing an acute kidney injury due to coronavirus. Read on to learn what NKF is doing to help.
Sounding the Alarm
As coronavirus continues to ravage our country and exhaust hospitals limited medical supplies, doctors may soon be forced to decide who gets put on a ventilator and who doesn’t. These heart-breaking choices should be made using sound medical judgment based on each patient’s condition, not on arbitrary guidelines. In a letter sent to the trade organizations representing the nation’s hospitals and health systems, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) expressed concern over news reports that some health systems and state governments are considering crisis-management policies which would deprive select patient groups—including patients with end stage renal disease—of life-saving interventions for COVID-19, including ventilation. While these are extreme circumstances, we cannot support a policy that would arbitrarily deny someone treatment due to their pre-existing health condition or disability. Blanket universal guidelines should never outweigh sound medical judgment.
Advocacy Efforts Continue
Just like their healthcare providers on the front lines, dialysis patients receiving treatment in-center continue to be at increased risk for developing the virus; the time is now to move dialysis care to home. We continue to advocate for fast-tracking home dialysis options; please help us break through these barriers so that all patients have the option to dialyze safely at home. Please take action right now.
Acute Kidney Injury
One of the side effects coming to light from COVID-19 is that it can wreak havoc on your kidneys, even if you’ve never had kidney disease before. The data are showing that 3-9% of nonelderly adults infected with the virus have developed an acute kidney injury (AKI), which is the sudden loss of kidney function. These adults had no underlying medical conditions, yet they developed an AKI after being diagnosed with coronavirus. While an AKI can be treated, it leaves a person at higher risk for developing chronic kidney disease. We urge any COVID-19 patients, even if they did not develop an AKI, to read our new resources as they may still be at risk for developing chronic kidney disease.
Asking the Experts in Real-Time
When I watch the daily press briefings with our nation’s health officials discussing the latest on coronavirus, I’m watching these as a patient, someone routinely told that I am among the highest at risk for developing life-threatening complications from COVID-19. I admit it’s alarming to listen to the news and I think of the other 37 million Americans affected by kidney disease and what they’re going through. As the CEO of NKF I can pick-up the phone and speak to our Chief Medical Officer or President to get my questions answered—our patients need the same opportunity.
NKF has been hosting weekly Facebook lives with our nationally recognized medical leadership team to answer questions from patients and their families in real-time. This week NKF’s President, Dr. Holly Kramer, a board certified nephrologist, will join with one of NKF’s leading Kidney Advocacy Committee patient advocates, Curtis Warfield, for a Facebook live at 1PM EST on Thursday, April 9, 2020. They’re ready to dive into all the topics patients are most curious about. In case you missed the last two with NKF’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joseph Vassalotti, they’re available by date on our Facebook page: March 26, 2020 and April 2, 2020.
In a communication sent to our staff last week, I stressed the importance of taking the necessary downtime to stay both physically and mentally well during these unusual times. In following my own advice I’ve been reading Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole mystery series. But after three books in a row, I decided to move on from reading books alone, to having virtual happy hours with my old college buddies. And while isolation isn’t fun for anyone, we would have never thought of doing this without it.
As this national health crisis continues, please continue to check our COVID-19 resource page where we post all the latest information on issues facing our community. If you have questions or need support, please contact our toll free patient information help line by calling (855) NKF-CARES, (1-855-653-2273) or by email firstname.lastname@example.org. And join our free online discussion forums.
Wishing you and your families good health.