During an unrelated ultrasound in her twenties, Brenda Bahnmann discovered she had polycystic kidney disease.
“The technician that was doing the ultrasound just happened to slide the device over my kidney and realized that there was something wrong,” said Bahnmann.
She received a kidney transplant in 2006, but it failed four years later. Bahnmann has been doing home dialysis five nights a week ever since.
“You do dialysis for eight hours every night. You start setting up after supper. You sleep during the process,” Bahnmann explained.
One place Bahnmann receives support is at the kidney health unit based out of St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon.
“A kidney is, in my opinion, the most important organ in the body. It cleans, filters, keeps everything in proper balance,” said Carmen Berglund, a nurse clinician at the unit.
The kidney health unit helps with chronic kidney disease through a clinic and a community program.
The community program was developed in 2007 to address the growing number of people with chronic kidney disease in central and northern parts of the province. It works to create awareness and provide education for both health care providers and the public.
Berglund said World Kidney Day is a reminder about the need for more kidney health education.
“We need more awareness of what the kidneys do, why kidney disease is a very silent disease until it’s much later stages and things we can do to prevent it,” Berglund said.
In Saskatchewan, about 70 people are currently waiting for a kidney transplant. On average, a person will wait close to three years for a kidney.
“If you have any family history, immediate family history, you really need to get checked and take good care of your kidneys. Preventing diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which are the two biggest causes worldwide, will do a great amount of preventing kidney disease,” Berglund said.
As for Bahnmann, she’s finding ways to stay positive, as she’s hoping for a second transplant.
“Just knowing I’m not alone. I’ve developed a lot of friendships over the years and have learned a lot of things that I can share with others,” Bahnmann said.