, Staff Writer

(FinalCall.com) – For Stephanie L. Muhammad, the recent path to hospitalization was uneventful. One day she was fine, the next she lay hooked up to wires and tubes at Edwards Hospital in the Chicago area as her doctor told her she had chronic kidney disease–only one of her kidneys was functioning and that one at ten percent of capacity.

“I was feeling strange that day and knew something was wrong. I thought it was just that my high blood pressure medication needed adjusting,” Mrs. Muhammad told The Final Call. “I called my doctor and described my symptoms. He told me to rush to the emergency room.”

Mrs. Muhammad spent four days in the hospital, underwent minor surgery and began dialysis, which she will have to continue three times a week until a donor kidney can be found for a transplant.


Kidney disease

According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 20 million Americans suffer from diseases of the kidney and urinary tract. More than 90,000 die each year because of these diseases. About 200,000 Americans suffer from chronic kidney failure and need an artificial kidney machine (dialysis) to stay alive.

Diabetes is the leading cause of chronic kidney failure, accounting for approximately one third of new cases of chronic kidney failure in the United States each year.

Uncontrolled or poorly controlled high blood pressure is the second leading cause of chronic kidney failure in the United States, accounting for about 30 percent of all cases.

“My doctor isn’t sure what caused my kidney disease,” said Mrs. Muhammad, national vanguard captain for the Nation of Islam. “He thinks it may be caused by high blood pressure or some other unknown factors.”

With 10 percent of her kidney functioning, Mrs. Muhammad is on the border of chronic renal failure.

“Unfortunately, chronic renal failure (CRF) is not uncommon,” explained Nation of Islam Minister of Health Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad. “So-called end-stage disease results when less than 10 percent functioning nephrons exist. The nephron is the functional unit of the kidney that produces urine as a filtration product of blood.

“Urine consists of water, salts, minerals and other metabolic products that are not needed by the body. The elimination of these by-products of metabolism helps to maintain homeostasis, or balance, in the body metabolism,” he said.

Diabetes and hypertension

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) explains that most Blacks (about 90 to 95 percent) with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes. This type of diabetes usually develops in adults and is caused by the body’s resistance to the action of insulin and to impaired insulin secretion. It can be treated with diet, exercise, diabetes pills and injected insulin.

Compared with Whites, according to NIH, Blacks experience higher rates of diabetes complications such as eye disease, kidney failure and amputations. They also experience greater disability from these complications.

“When compared to other racial and ethnic groups in the United States, African-Americans have much higher rates of high blood pressure,” said Dr. Kenneth Jamerson, medical director for the University of Michigan’s Health Systems Program for Multi-Cultural Health.

“African-Americans tend to develop it at an earlier age and are 18 times more likely than Whites to develop kidney failure as a complication of the disease. Blacks make up only 12 percent of the U.S. population, but they are more than one-third of the patients in any renal dialysis clinic,” he said.

Physicians estimate that at least 50 million Americans have high blood pressure. It is called the “silent killer” because it generally produces no discernible symptoms until it is too late to prevent serious complications, such as heart attack, stroke or kidney failure.

“Bottom line advice for anyone with high blood pressure is that you need to be in regular contact with your physician, because if an organ in your body is being damaged by high blood pressure, you won’t know until it is too late. If you are African-American, the message is even more urgent,” Dr. Jamerson said.


With ten percent of her kidney functioning, Mrs. Muhammad needs dialysis to save her life.

The National Kidney Foundation explains that sometimes dialysis is only needed temporarily, but some people need it for the rest of their lives or until a kidney is available for a transplant. If a person has kidney failure, it is better to plan ahead for dialysis and be aware of the different treatment options.

“I need dialysis until a donor is found for a kidney transplant,” said Mrs. Muhammad, who started dialysis before she left the hospital. “It was basically painless. I just sat there and waited for it to be over. It was better than I thought.”

For her husband, former Nation of Islam Supreme Captain Sharrieff Muhammad, it was all a shock. “I just sat there and watched her go through this. I’m saying to myself, ‘Is this real?’ But whatever it is, I’m right there with her with whatever God permits.”

There are two different types of dialysis, hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. In hemodialysis, circulating it through a filtering machine outside the body cleans the blood. In peritoneal dialysis, the blood remains inside the body and is filtered through a membrane that already exists in the abdomen. Waste material filters into a special exchange fluid that enters and leaves the body through an opening in the abdomen called a port.

“I’ll be doing hemodialysis for about two weeks. I’ll go to the center three times a week. After that I’ll start peritoneal dialysis which I’ll do at home at night while I sleep,” said Mrs. Muhammad.

Prevention and cure

When was the last time you put a urine sample in a cup? For most Americans, the answer is not recently enough, according to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF). Although one in nine Americans–more than 20 million people–have kidney disease, most don’t know it, says the Foundation.

Another 20 million more Americans are at increased risk of developing kidney disease. But that simple urine cup test can detect kidney disease years before symptoms occur. March is Kidney Month, the perfect time to take the test.

“Unfortunately, this inexpensive urinalysis test is rarely included in routine medical checkups,” says William F. Keane, MD, president of the National Kidney Foundation. “But early detection is critical because it allows for early treatment, which may prevent the disease’s progression.”

“The only alternative to dialysis is a transplanted kidney. Kidneys are usually harvested from organ donors who die from sudden causes such as head trauma. If there is a tissue match, then the recipient can accept the donated kidney. A tissue match involves some of the same principles as blood donation. The donor and recipient have to have similar antigenic markers although it is rare to have an exact match,” said Dr. Muhammad

“To prevent rejection of the donated kidney, sometimes immune suppressive drugs are given, otherwise, the recipient’s immune system will attack and destroy the donated kidney.”

According to the National Kidney Foundation, many people who need transplants of organs and tissues cannot get them because of a shortage of donations. Every month, more than 2,000 new names are added to the national waiting list for organ transplants. About 10 or 11 people die every day awaiting a transplant of a vital organ such as a kidney, heart or liver.

More than 27,000 patients are waiting for kidney transplants, but only about 11,000 will receive transplants this year because of a shortage of suitable organ donors.

“I believe a donor will be found for me to have a kidney transplant. A simple test is all it takes to find the perfect match. All my friends want to be tested to see if they are a match. I’ve received so much love and support. I have faith in Allah (God) to bring me through this,” said Mrs. Muhammad.