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Covid and Kidney Disease March 2020- November 2021

Remember the roaring 20’s New Years Eve parties we had December 31, 2019?

The flailing carefree fun we had dressing in pin stripe Zoot Suites and flapper dresses?  Today is 11/11/2021 and New Years Eve of 2019 feels like a million-emotional years ago.  Shortly into January of 2020 we began learning about Covid-19.  It was a blip at first, like the H1N1 virus from 2009.  It was a small byline. But then it began: the cruise ships, the travelers, the doctors all giving reports of the rapid spread.  We understood little, maybe we felt Covid was hyped by the CDC epidemiologists, anxious to shine in their moment of expertise.  By March 14th we were asked as a country to quarantine, schools went online, work turned into Zoom meetings and 5,000 emails a day, hospitals braced themselves.  It suddenly became an ideological battlefield of freedom, and a matter of sustaining the economy. The food and toilet paper went missing from grocery store shelves as we locked down. We shopped feeling self-conscious about the masks we wore looking for friendly eyes (or defiantly facing other shoppers bare faced to prove a point). We needed anti viral cleaning solutions, hand sanitizer, PPE.  Healthy people took it in stride.  But those with suppressed immune systems, lung disease and the elderly –and those who take care of them–were listening very carefully. Rest homes were  ground zero. Family’s pulled their loved ones out full time care units.  The world, the economy, and our personal lives affected by the change. But we were in it together, like 9/11 or were we? Turns out we weren’t in it together.

The National Kidney Foundation of Utah & Idaho represents a community of immune suppressed  individuals.

All kidney patients are immune suppressed either because their kidneys don’t filter poisons/toxins which made them sick or because they’ve had a transplant and used immunosuppressive drugs to protect their body from rejecting the transplant. On the forefront of our mission was the protection of the most venerable kidney patients.  Kidney patients who had already had to quit their jobs, not because of sickness per se, but because they didn’t have insurance or good-enough insurance, or money to pay for dialysis or qualify for the transplant waiting list.  Kidney patients are often placed in a no-win situation of accepting Medicare to help pay for dialysis treatments. The National Kidney Foundation of Utah & Idaho struggled against Utah and Idaho’s popular notions of patriotism and individualism, and anti vaccination sentiments in order to provide certified, correct, medical information about how to avoid contacting Covid-19. Our social media was littered with “sheeple” comments we had to erase. We stood fast in protecting Kidney Patient’s right to fight for their health in order to qualify for a kidney transplant. We did not need bullyies disparaging their efforts to remain Covid free.  During the socio-idological battle, not only were kidney patients losing transplanted kidneys to Covid, but seemingly healthy people were losing their kidneys BECAUSE of Covid.  It is estimated that 1 in 5 people in ICU (due to Covid) would emerge “recovered” from Covid, but needing dialysis treatments due to the kidney damage it caused.

What the NKF of Utah & Idaho desires above all is to protect the right for people (already struggling with kidney failure) to feel our love and admiration for their battle.

Anyone who has ever been on the transplant waiting list, who has received a kidney transplant, can tell you, that doing so is to earn an unofficial Master Degree of Public Administration.  We were fighting a vociferous, antagonistic community who incited “Natural Selection” as the way to handle Covid: anti establishment, anti medical doctors, anti vaccinators.  That’s an amazingly murderous and chilling sentiment.  The last thing the NKF of Utah & Idaho wanted was an ideological battle pointing out the selfishness of the truly fortunate (healthy) people (who have never needed to ponder their health or their own mortality) dictating rules of this battle.  Often those born will chronic illness like CF, MD, diabetes or Asthma did nothing to deserve being sick, besides be born with a genetic propensity for illness.  Masks were supposed to be used as a “love thy neighbor” effort. It indicated willingness to “keeping our own germs/saliva droplets to ourselves.” Instead, what we saw was defiant non mask wearing people flaunting their fortune of good health, willing to spew their literal spit droplets into everyone’s faces with 100% certainty that they had every AMERICAN FREEDOM to do so.  We understand death is part of life, and sickness is a reality for everyone with a body.  But do people have the right to spread disease, essentially killing off the sick and infirm?  It was a very discouraging time to be an immune compromised person. Many quietly let go. It has been discouraging to be a brave soul willing to fight for life, even with kidney disease. The NKF of Utah & Idaho waged, with all our courage, a war of correct information regarding Covid and withstood vitriolic damnation of many ‘patriots.’ While we were trying to ‘suffer with those who suffer’, and live with a certain humility to serve ‘the least of these’, the Patriots didn’t want to wear face masks. Then, after the vaccine was developed even the President who quietly got and recovered from Covid (with the help of the country’s best doctors and available treatments), got vaccinated.  Around then, the patriots decided the mask was ok in public–but the vaccine was not. The misinformation had gone so far, they Boo-ed their president when he suggested everyone should be vaccinated.  Then finally, as we enter the last stages of pandemic, every battle fatigued Utah and Idahoan simply let nature take it’s course to the stage in which today, The Deseret News declared as “BONKERS numbers of Covid Cases and Covid deaths.”  Bonkers… Very well put Lisa Riley Roche.

A few Utah and Idaho kidney patients, we know personally, wanting to maintain their anti-establishment ideology of anti vaccination, ultimately lost their lives or their transplanted kidney after contacting Covid.

The irony of this situation is that — it was science gave them that miracle of a kidney transplant to begin with. But mistrust and misinformation that has been sown since March of 2020 caused people, even kidney patient to trust alternative news and doctors advice.  I wish those who avidly support the anti-medical establishment, and pass along Covid misinformation at their daily patriot-parade, can stop for one second, to really take in the damage to the families left behind when a loved one dies. I wish the could see how they have unintentionally pledged trillions of dollars to the medical establishment to care for the collapsed lungs and Covid-stroke damage done to those “lucky enough” to survive the ICU.  The utter tragedy of losing a transplanted kidney to misinformation may border on criminal. But who is to blame?  The mainstream media?  The President?  Doctors? The Government? When it comes to protecting your health and your life–what does it matter, who is to blame? When it it gone, it’s gone. When you are dead or sick, you can not roll back time. Death and sickness is a human fact that can not be altered. So do you want to care for your fellow man? Or nah.

Working in public health, protecting the sick who are fighting for their lives– as pandemic rages– became unpopular in Utah and Idaho.While everyone celebrates and supports organ donation, protecting oneself from Covid (in honor of the family who donated a kidney) became, by some alternate universe reality, almost an act of treason against American Freedom.

Are we so enraptured with being ‘right’ that we will unintentionally kill the elderly of our churches over our principles?

Is Covid worth dying for if it can be so easily prevented? Are hygiene and face masks such a high price to pay for freedom from illness? Do you know if your blood has a propensity to clot?  Well getting Covid is not when I’d like to find that out.  But that’s me.  So in light of all that has transpired since March of 2020, and in light of the BONKERS numbers of Covid in Utah and Idaho I would like to offer my humble opinion:

  1. Continue to wear masks in public spaces and around the vulnerable sick/elderly, or just everyone because you don’t know who is sick
  2.  Get vaccinated, and reduce your risk of ‘bad covid’
  3. If you are immune-compromised ask your doctor if getting the vaccine booster is right for you
  4. Wash your hands after you visit the grocery store or church
  5. Don’t go to work/church/school/a Jazz game if you are sick
  6. Eat your vitamins
  7. Don’t smoke

We get one life. Join us in choosing to live it the best we can– in health and safety.

Live in spite of the voices in this community bullying us into ‘doing less’ to protect ourselves. It gives us no pleasure to learn of vociferously unvaccinated freedom loving friends and family members stricken with Covid.  At the time of this writing, there are 4 oxygen canisters being passed around my own extended family members because they believe the government is at the helm of some kind of evil conspiracy to force them into vaccination.  They are paying for that belief with their lungs and the remaining years of their lives.