nov. 15 urinary disease

November 12, 1999

Living with kidney disease

Local people talk about the options

By KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer

Photo by KEVIN G. GILBERT / Staff Photographer

Kidney disease is among the top 10 causes of death in Washington County.

The numbers - about 10 deaths per 100,000 population - are about the same as those for the state as a whole, according to Washington County Health Officer Dr. Robert Parker.

Dialysis and transplant technology became available in the early 1970s, says Dr. Eli Roza, a Hagerstown nephrologist - a physician who specializes in diseases of the kidney.


"We're keeping people alive longer," Parker says.

cont. from lifestyle


But living with kidney disease is not easy.

Three times a week, for three hours and 45 minutes, Robert Cobb sits in a lounge-type chair at Meadow Dialysis Facility in Hagerstown's North End. Like other hemodialysis patients, Cobb has a surgically inserted graft in his arm. It forms a connection between an artery and a vein, providing a way to connect his circulatory system to the machine that cleans his blood, filtering out wastes and extra fluids.

Cobb, trim and fit-looking at 65, says he was playing basketball a couple of years ago. "All of a sudden, the world goes upside down." He and his doctors believe that his kidney failure was caused by amyloidosis, a disease detected by deposits of protein in organs.

Cobb, of Hagerstown, has been on dialysis since Aug. 26, 1998. It's a lifeline, he says.

Peritoneal dialysis

Allen Chilcoat chose a different lifeline. The 67-year-old Hagerstown resident is on peritoneal dialysis, a kind of do-it-yourself method. Through a surgically implanted catheter, he fills his abdominal cavity with a cleansing solution. Several hours later, the fluid is drained after the abdominal lining has filtered out wastes, extra water and chemicals, according to National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Chilcoat has been administering his dialysis for four years. He does it at noon and 4 p.m., then hooks up to a machine that takes care of it while he sleeps.

Several years ago, Chilcoat was on insulin for diabetes, but says he "outgrew" the disease.

Despite some weakness, Chilcoat says he feels "pretty good." The treatment he chose opens up his life a lot more, he says. He and his wife of 49 years, Bernice, have a motor home and enjoy camping and fishing and crabbing with friends and family.


Transplantation is another option.

A healthy human kidney is surgically implanted in a patient whose own kidneys are not functioning sufficiently to support life.

Kidney transplants, which have been done since the 1970s, are preferable to dialysis, according to Roza. Although they still have to take medications, transplant patients feel better and have more freedom, he says. But transplantation is not for everyone with kidney disease. People who are elderly and have heart disease or diabetes would not be candidates for kidney transplants, Roza says.

James E. Ridenour Sr. says he was born and raised in the Smithsburg area. He is happy to be living there still.

The 59-year-old former big-truck mechanic had problems with kidney stones since the late 1960s. He lost one kidney then and had continuing problems. A couple of heart attacks forced him to retire, and he was on dialysis for a while. He signed up for a transplant in 1993, but wasn't ready to make that decision when the first call came.

A month later he was. In June 1998, Ridenour was the first Meadow facility patient to be offered two kidneys from the same cadaver, a newer way of doing transplants, says Lynnette Matlick, director of nursing at Meadow Dialysis Facility in Hagerstown.

Although he takes anti-rejection medications, Ridenour is pleased with the transplant results. He has developed diabetes but is keeping it under control with diet. He recently made applesauce and an apple pie with artificial sweetener.

He's happy to be enjoying his three kids and three grandchildren, including the youngest, who is just a month old.

"God has been good to us and our family," says Sara Ridenour, his wife. She recently signed on as an organ donor when she renewed her driver's license.

"People need to know how important it is and how much it can do for other people," James Ridenour says.

See related item: Just the facts

See related item: Warning signs

See related item: Resources

See related item: What do kidneys do?

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