Why I Walk

By Frank W. Maddux, MD, FACP
Chief Medical Officer
Executive Vice President for Clinical and Scientific Affairs
Fresenius Medical Care North America
Executive Champion, Boston NKF Kidney Walk

FRANK MADDUX MD FACP

Creating opportunities to help patients thrive is one of the most rewarding aspects of my role at Fresenius Medical Care North America. It’s also one of the reasons I get so energized to be part of the annual National Kidney Foundation Kidney Walks.

The Kidney Walks are one of the many ways we stand by all patients and their families. Extending ourselves beyond the walls of our clinics and offices—and into the many neighborhoods and communities, we’re proud to be a part of—deepens our understanding of how CKD affects lives and how we as a healthcare company can fight this epidemic on multiple levels.

I’m honored to serve as an executive champion for the Boston NKF Kidney Walk, one of nearly 90 walks across the United States presented by the NKF and sponsored by Fresenius Medical Care. Fresenius Medical Care and NKF share the same passion and commitment to improving the lives of people with kidney disease; in fact, giving back to the community is part of our company’s DNA. Nearly a decade ago, we embarked on our partnership with the National Kidney Foundation knowing that together we would support our goal of improving the quality of life of every patient every day. This year we’ve combined the power of our 67,000-strong employee family, spanning 2,400 dialysis care facilities across the United States, contributing more than $750,000 to fight kidney disease – a pledge that has increased three-fold from 2017.

Fighting an epidemic requires both advocacy and action. With 1 in 7 Americans affected by kidney disease–and with 10 percent of the world’s population affected by CKD, and millions more unaware they have the disease—the amount of kidney-disease focused clinical research is less than what you’d expect for a disease long recognized as a public health condition. By joining patients and their caregivers at walks throughout the country, we help shine a light on CKD to help grow public understanding and awareness around the urgency of this disease.

Getting involved is easy: all it takes is a few clicks and a commitment to walk. Click here to find a Kidney Walk near you and get involved either by joining a team or creating one of your own. If you’re near Boston, please consider joining me for the Boston area Kidney Walk on Sunday, October 14, at North Point Park in Cambridge, MA.

I’m grateful to the NKF and my fellow walkers: medical professionals, patients, their caregivers, their families and the kidney community as a whole. I’m humbled to be part of a community that sets the example for what it means to be patient-centered. We not only stand with kidney disease patients and their families, we walk with them, at their side.

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Kidney Walk, Like the Disease, is a Family Affair

Vedamay Bradford, RN, BHA, MBA
Director of Operations for the West Los Angeles area, Fresenius Kidney Care
Team captain for the Los Angeles Kidney Walk

Vedamay photo blog

Kidney disease doesn’t just affect patients. It affects their entire family. I know. When my dad was diagnosed with kidney disease two and a half years ago, it was an adjustment for all of us. That’s why I’m proud to lead the Fresenius Kidney Care team at the Los Angeles Kidney Walk on October 14, where I’ll be joined by my fiancée, my son, and my sister and her family.

My dad has had high blood pressure for as long as I can remember, and in a family full of medical experts – my mom, sister and I all started our careers as nurses – it was easy for him to think we were being overprotective when we kept repeating that he needed to take care of himself. After all, he didn’t feel any different, so he figured there was nothing to worry about.

Symptoms of kidney disease often go undetected, which is why it’s critical to get screened regularly if you’re at risk. Getting started on an effective treatment plan as soon as possible helps preserve kidney function and may prevent kidney disease or slow its progression.

One day, my dad was unable to urinate. His doctors first thought it was due to his prostate, but when his problems persisted, he was screened for kidney disease and told he needed to start dialysis.

Being a caregiver myself, I can appreciate what families go through when their loved one comes to us for dialysis treatment. Adherence to the kidney diet can be challenging, and in our house, the whole family changed their eating patterns to make this lifestyle transition easier for my dad.

Vedamay photo blog 2

The Kidney Walks help raise awareness – and most importantly, funds – to help in the fight against kidney disease. There is not enough public awareness and education about how kidney disease can manifest in a person. As I learned with my dad, it can happen to any family.

Thirty million people in the United States are currently living with chronic kidney disease, and many of them are thriving. The commitment of the National Kidney Foundation to fund research and raise awareness has been essential to ensuring the advancement of treatments and improved longevity and quality of life for patients. The more money we raise through walks like these, the more we can help the National Kidney Foundation achieve its mission of improving the lives of people with chronic kidney disease everywhere.

I hope you’ll join me.

Kidney Walk National Corporate Partners Make a Difference in the Fight Against Kidney Disease

This spring, National Kidney Foundation welcomed ten National Corporate Partners to the Kidney Walk. What is a corporate partner? A company that supports the Kidney Walk from a national level by rallying employees to participate and by sponsoring multiple Walks throughout the year. These partners have shown up to walk with and for the kidney community, and they have stepped up in many other important and creative ways. Here are a few highlights.

Fresenius Medical Care North America’s Support Starts with Executive Leadership

Fresenius Medical Care North America is the 2018 Kidney Walk National Presenting Sponsor and the largest national team ever! That’s thanks to incredible leadership and support from Fresenius CEO Bill Valle. In this role, Mr. Valle, who is also the inaugural National Corporate Chair for the 2018 Walk season, is rallying the business community to lace up their shoes for their local Kidney Walks. He’s also dedicated to raising important awareness for the fight against kidney disease.

Bill Valle teamed up with NKF’s CEO, Kevin Longino, to film a video series about many important topics, including kidney disease and transplantation, what it means to be a corporate partner and a special message to all FMCNA employees to get them excited and proud to walk. Watch two of the videos here:

Relypsa’s Commitment to Kidney Patients Reaches New Heights – and Countries

2018 is Relypsa’s second year as a Kidney Walk National Partner, and their team has already surpassed their 2017 fundraising total! Relypsa’s leaders continue to deepen their commitment to supporting kidney patients. CEO Scott Garland served as the 2018 Silicon Valley Kidney Walk Chair, and VP of Marketing Todd Ungard led the Walk’s Executive Leadership Committee and has recently joined NKF as a board member in California.

2018 Relypsa Walk Photo 2

Taking it to another level – and continent – Relypsa’s parent company, Vifor Pharma, was so inspired by Relypsa’s National Partnership that they joined in on the fun! Vifor Pharma formed the first international Kidney Walk team at their headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. 110 staff members gathered for a Kidney Walk-inspired day which included kidney education seminars, a staff lunch and, of course, a walk.

Team Zurich

LogistiCare’s Focus on Volunteerism

LogistiCare is a longtime Kidney Walk National Team but that hasn’t stopped them from upping their game! In 2018, LogistiCare became a National Multi-Market Sponsor, too. They kicked off their efforts by hosting the first official LogistiCare Service Day at their corporate headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, that included an NKF Drive for Dialysis program. LogistiCare employees came together to assemble care packages for dialysis patients to brighten their spirits and make the long hours of treatment a little more bearable. More than 500 care packages were handed out at local dialysis centers. What a fantastic way to kick off another great year of partnership!

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The stories of our National Partners’ dedication and creativity are endless. We are grateful for their continued support for improving the lives of kidney patients in their local communities. Thank you!

If your company is interested in learning more about Kidney Walk National Partnership opportunities, please reach out to Krystn Kuckelman at krystn.kuckelman@kidney.org.

Navigating CKD: Life in the driver’s seat

By Kathy Hoyer, Territory Director, Satellite Healthcare

Whether it’s chauffeuring his wife Claudia around their San Jose hometown, or managing his Chronic Kidney disease, John Unger likes to be in control.

That doesn’t necessarily mean he likes to speed; in fact, he is cautious and thoughtful about both. But it’s clear that the 74-year-old isn’t letting health limitations slow him down.

That goes for behind the wheel or on foot. Unger has made it a hobby to participate in National Kidney Foundation fundraising walks almost every year since his diagnosis nearly 20 years ago along with other health awareness walks.

“I don’t even remember the first one I did,” he says of his walks. “It was for a very small organization.” He was accompanied by one of his daughters, Andrea Hensler, adding another aspect to his regimen of good health: He keeps his family involved.

Unger has been on dialysis at Satellite Healthcare since 2015. But even that hasn’t keep him from his beloved walks.

“Last year my nurse made me bring a wheelchair, and she walked with me,” Unger says. “I ended up pushing the wheelchair the whole time.”

Satellite at the Kidney Walk

John Unger, Kathy Hoyer and Gilda Jones, along with other team member from Satellite, at last year’s San Jose Kidney Walk

Satellite dialysis nurse and center manager Gilda Jones is Unger’s biggest fan. “He never complains and is a delight to care for,” Jones says.

After Unger was diagnosed with CKD, he put off dialysis as long as he could, controlling his disease with a healthy lifestyle. But back in 2015 it became apparent that he needed dialysis.

“It’s just a part of life,” he says. “I try to stay as positive as I can.”

Jones says that his positive attitude helps in his recovery.

Dialysis has helped, too. “I am much healthier now than I was the year before I started dialysis,” Unger says. “Before I started dialysis I was weak and cold all the time. I knew it was time to take the next step for my health.”

However, he has no plans to take further steps, and has not registered for the national kidney transplant list. “Because I was 72 when I started dialysis, I felt that I should let someone younger get an available kidney.”

It’s a decision he accepts with grace, and his family understands it, especially wife Claudia. Unger says that she is a major positive in his life. A diabetic and neuropathy sufferer, Claudia does not drive, hence Unger’s job of Chief Driving Officer — another reason he has to stay as healthy as possible. Still, he’s the first one to say that Claudia is the sharper of the two, and frequently “wins” in their loving battle of wits.

“She says I better not get Alzheimer’s Disease because quite honestly, she wouldn’t notice,” he jokes.

Another thing that has helped Unger stay positive in his disease is the mentorship of a family friend, Patti Childress, an account supervisor for the Bay Area American Red Cross. “She’s showed me how someone can live a normal life with our disease,” Unger says.

And a normal life means independence, as much as three-day-a-week dialysis provides. That usually means a day-trip, like the one he recently made to Lodi for a meeting of his beloved Freemasons, of which he is a long-time member. “I got in the car around 9 a.m., made it in time for lunch and the meeting, then drove home,” he says. “It was no problem.”

And he is that way about the NKF Kidney Walks he participates in. He says he doesn’t train for them, but in the immortal words of Michael Jordan, “I just do it.” He says he doesn’t walk in the longer distances, but takes on the shorter routes.

The only year he’s bypassed an NKF walk in the past decade was one day when it was 90 degrees outside. “I got there, felt how hot it was, and said, ‘no way!’”

So, assuming the weather behaves, look for Unger this June at the annual San Jose Kidney Walk. He may be pushing a wheelchair, but make no mistake, he’s still in the driver’s seat.