Kidney disease affects nearly 31 million Americans, according to the American Kidney Fund, and is the ninth-leading cause of death in the United States.
It’s a silent disease, and many people are unaware that they are experiencing symptoms until they are diagnosed in the advanced stages.
Jewish Atlantan Barry Flink, however, is defying the odds against kidney disease, thanks to the kidney donation he received Jan. 19.
Flink’s battle with kidney disease is filled with miracles that have enabled him to survive to tell his story. His body persevered while he suffered through a decline in renal function.
As his kidney disease got worse, he lost his zest for life. He was ridden with diabetes and hypertension in addition to declining kidney function, a dangerous trio that led Flink down a narrow path.
Over five years, Flink felt the worsening effects of the decline of his kidney function. His creatinine levels became dangerously high, and Flink feared what would happen.
That is when Flink got his first positive medical surprise: He was told he didn’t have to go on dialysis because his body was coping with the harsh changes, and he was not in renal failure despite high creatinine levels that approached the necessity for dialysis.
Still, it appeared inevitable that he would reach the point of needing dialysis, and doctors raised the idea of a kidney transplant.
Patients often spend years on the waiting list for kidney transplants because of the difficulty of finding a match. Flink was spared that wait, however, because three people offered their kidneys. It was a miracle for him to be close to so many selfless people.
Diana Farmer, Flink’s former employee, proved to be a perfect match, and she donated the kidney for the transplant.
His creatinine level peaked at 7.4 the day of surgery. Had the level reached 8, Flink would have been forced to go on dialysis.
The successful surgery took three hours Jan. 19 at Emory University Hospital.
“Be very careful about what hospital you pick, and make logistics a part of your consideration,” Flink said.
The timing also was lucky. The transplant was performed two months after Flink went on Medicare, which covered almost the entire half-million-dollar cost of the procedure. Had Flink been forced to go through the surgery without Medicare, he would have borne more of the expense.
The kidney transplant changed Flink’s life. He was dispirited for many months, but now he has a renewed drive to succeed. His vision has improved, and his diabetes and hypertension are in decline.
He has a new mantra: “Attitude makes all the difference. It is an inside job. If you believe things will get better, they usually will.”
That mantra has helped him recover twice as fast as normal for a kidney transplant patient, and Flink believes that he now does tasks better than before. He also wants his story to give hope to others suffering from kidney disease.