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Vidant Health celebrates World Kidney Day

March 09, 2017 by Amy Holcombe

GREENVILLE – A now healthy and thriving 4-year-old, Austin Nahrebecki’s life looked very different just a couple years ago. At 19-months-old, he became the youngest transplant patient at Vidant Medical Center when he received a kidney from his mother.

Austin was born with a blockage in his kidneys, and he needed a transplant. While no parent wants to see their child go through what Austin experienced, his parents say, “we wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else but Vidant.”

March 9 marks World Kidney Day, a global campaign aimed at raising awareness of the importance of our kidneys. The light tower at the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital at Vidant Medical Center will change color from blue to lime green in recognition of World Kidney Day at 6:30 p.m.

Changing the light tower is a both a symbolic gesture and a conversation starter to raise awareness about the risks, dangers and burden of kidney disease. “Austin has come so far, but there was a time we didn’t know if he was going to make it to the next day,” his mother, Rebecca, said. “I think changing the lights is a great gesture. It’s a good representation for the families that are struggling, because this is something that doesn’t just affect the child, but the entire family. It helps to trigger conversation about this issue and offers the opportunity to talk about the importance of organ donation.”

Chronic kidney disease (CKD), which is predicted to increase by 17 percent over the next decade, is now recognized by World Health Organization and other groups as a global public health issue. The trend is specifically true in North Carolina as the number of people diagnosed with kidney disease has continued to increase since 2010.

“The rate of CKD in eastern North Carolina is higher than in much of the state,” said Dr. Cynthia Christiano, division chief for nephrology and hypertension at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. She added that minority populations, including African-Americans, “are known to suffer from higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure which are both leading causes for CKD. These populations are therefore at higher risk of developing severe renal disease and ultimately kidney failure.”

Kidney disease also affects children, and is prevalent in eastern North Carolina. In pediatric cases, the causes of end stage renal disease are different than in adults. “Congenital renal anomalies are the leading cause of kidney disease in children,” said Dr. Guillermo Hidalgo, section head for pediatric nephrology and director of pediatric transplant at Brody. He explained that other causes can also include infection, nephrotic syndrome, systemic diseases, trauma and urine blockage or reflux.

Rebecca said she never thought the day would come when Austin would be a “normal” kid. If they could give any words of wisdom to other families going through a similar experience, the Nahrebeckis say, “It gets better, but it takes time, you can’t rush it. You have to take it day by day.”

The aim of celebrating World Kidney Day is to raise awareness of the importance of our kidneys to our overall health and to reduce the frequency and impact of kidney disease and its associated health problems worldwide.

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