Hundreds of dialysis patients in Western Pennsylvania received special care packages from the National Kidney Foundation as part of the Drive for Dialysis project to generate awareness about kidney disease.
Among the items they collected March 14 — World Kidney Day — was a water bottle with measurements to help manage what they drink.
Managing fluid intake is important for people on hemodialysis — a treatment that removes waste and extra fluid from the blood — because they typically have fluid restrictions as part of their medical diagnosis.
The foundation’s project aims to draw attention to the more than 100,000 people who are diagnosed with acute kidney failure every year. Many of them end up on lengthy waiting lists for a kidney transplant.
The number of people awaiting a kidney transplant in the United States could fill PNC Park and Heinz Field, said Cherie Peters, program director for National Kidney Foundation serving the Alleghenies.
There are 102,898 people awaiting a kidney transplant nationally, 6097 in Pennsylvania and 1,839 in Pittsburgh, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.
Peters addressed the main reasons for kidney disease — diabetes and high blood pressure.
“We take for granted what the kidneys do on a daily basis,” Peters said. “A lot of people who have kidney disease actually die of heart failure. It’s so hard on your heart when you kidneys aren’t working.”
Employees of Ampco-Pittsburgh Corp. in Carnegie were the first participants in Western Pennsylvania to participate in the project.
“Giving money is important, but giving time is so much more meaningful,” said Rose Hoover, president of Ampco-Pittsburgh Corp. and incoming board chair for the local kidney foundation. “By delivering the care packages, we will see firsthand how happy it will make the patients who are tethered to a machine for three hours.”
Dave Longo, a help desk technician, took part to honor his late mother, Karen Longo, who was on dialysis until her sister Debbie Marcocci donated a kidney.
“I know what dialysis is all about,” he said. “These bags are a way to brighten up their day when they are sitting there for hours.”
He and colleagues joined members of the local kidney foundation to distributed bags at Liberty Dialysis on Banksville Road where there are 110 patients, clinical manager Maryann Ferneding said.
“These will be a mood lifter and a nice surprise for our patients,” said Ferneding.