By Cynthia Flash
Northwest Asian Weekly
Lincoln Louie grew up surrounded by chronic kidney disease. The youngest of three children, he saw his brother Danny and sister Lily battle it. For Lincoln, who lives in the Beacon Hill home where he grew up, the sometimes life-threatening disease was just a regular part of life.
“To me it’s like normal, not anything out of the ordinary,” Lincoln said. “When I was a kid, since I knew at 12, I thought my kidneys would stop working completely and I would go on dialysis, probably get a transplant. Mentally, I thought it would happen one day. Mentally, I wasn’t scared. I was ready.”
Lincoln and his siblings inherited kidney disease from their mother. They are among the 1 in 7 American adults who have the condition. Asian Americans are three to five times as likely as Caucasians to have the disease because they’re also more likely to have diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, which are common causes of kidney disease.
Chronic kidney disease often gets worse over time. If it progresses to irreversible kidney failure, the person will die without regular dialysis treatments or a kidney transplant. However, kidney damage can be slowed down or stopped if people get diagnosed early and change their lifestyles to incorporate healthier habits.
With March being National Kidney Month, Lincoln Louie and his family hope that they can educate others about kidney disease and persuade them to talk to their doctors about it. “Life, as you probably know, has its struggles.
And, as I say to everyone, every person has his or her own story to tell,” said Lincoln’s wife, Ann Marie Louie. “We can all find something from those stories that helps us.”
By the time Lincoln’s siblings were in their 20s, both were going to a Northwest Kidney Centers dialysis clinic at least three times a week to spend a half day getting their bodies flushed of waste. Dialysis treatments use a machine to remove body waste and extra fluid when the kidneys can no longer do that job. Eventually Danny and Lily received kidney transplants, as did Danny’s son Dustin. Danny, who lives on Mercer Island, and Dustin, who lives in California, are living well with their transplants. Lily died in 2006 from complications of kidney disease.
When Lincoln first was tested for kidney disease at age 12, doctors checked a blood sample and found high levels of creatinine, a waste product normally removed in urine. In blood, it can be an indicator of kidney disease. Other warning signs are high blood pressure and high blood sugar. Lincoln’s doctors decided to monitor him. When he was 19, with creatinine levels still rising, Lincoln’s parents found a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine who prescribed an herbal tea that Lincoln drank every day. It tasted bad, but Lincoln’s kidney disease stayed in check for more than 20 years.
Around age 40, Lincoln’s health was declining and he joined the national kidney transplant waitlist. On Oct. 5, 2012, at age 43, he received a kidney transplant from a deceased donor.
Meanwhile, Lincoln and Ann Marie had another family member to worry about. Their son, Alan, was born prematurely with small kidneys.
Eventually Alan’s kidneys also deteriorated and stopped working. He received a transplant Oct. 31, 2013, about a year after his father.
Wanting another child but knowing their family’s history, Lincoln and Ann Marie decided to adopt their daughter, Ana-Christine, who came to them from China.
The Louie family wants the community to know about kidney disease. Ann Marie volunteers for Northwest Kidney Centers, the family has participated in a walk to raise money for polycystic kidney disease, and they attend health fairs to help educate others.
Despite living with a chronic health condition, Lincoln and Ann Marie don’t let kidney disease define them or their children.
“Even the day of transplant he didn’t have any fear in him,” added Lincoln.
Ann Marie said that she has learned to speak up and not to be embarrassed by the disease. “The one thing about the Asian community is they’re not very vocal. Depression can be a huge part of dealing with things like this. You don’t want to share. But if you do, it’s healthier.” (end)
Northwest Kidney Centers’ website offers information about kidney disease, diagnosis, treatment, classes and recipes for easy and delicious dishes. Visit www.nwkidney.org.
Cynthia Flash owns Flash Media Services. Northwest Kidney Centers is the chosen provider of dialysis for 80 percent of the people in King County who need the treatment.