This past weekend my sister and brother in law hosted a wine and cheese Fundraiser in honour of our cousin. The fundraiser was for the Kidney Foundation of Canada. My cousin has been diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), which is a type of Glomerular Disease one of many diseases that affect kidney function by attacking the glomeruli, the tiny units within the kidney where blood is cleaned (the filtering process takes place in the nephron, where microscopic blood vessels filters called glomeruli are attached to the fluid collecting tubules). Glomerulosclerosis describes the scarring or hardening of the tiny blood vessels within the kidney.
The kidneys are organs that filter the blood of its toxins. They process about 400 quarts of blood a day to sift out about 2 quarts of waste products and extra water that eventually leave the body as urine. This process occurs through the glomeruli. Glomeruli disease damages the glomeruli letting protein and sometimes red blood cells leak into the urine. The disease can interfere with the clearance of waste products by the kidney so they begin to build up in the blood. Furthermore, loss of blood proteins like albumin in the urine can result in a fall in their level in the bloodstream. Albumin acts like a sponge to draw extra fluid from the body into the bloodstream where it remains until the kidneys remove it. But when albumin leaks in the urine the blood loses its capacity to absorb extra fluid from the body. Fluid therefore accumulates outside the circulatory system and causes swelling in the face, hands, feet and ankles.
When a patient has acute of chronic loss of kidney function they are said to be in renal failure. When a person is in end stage renal failure they must go on dialysis or receive a new kidney via transplant. Dialysis is a process by which the blood is cleaned and waste and excess water is removed from the body (what a healthy kidney should do). For further information on dialysis and FSGS please visit the Kidney Foundation of Canada website.
My cousin is only 30 years old and is in end stage renal failure. She does not qualify for organ transplant and as such most of her days are spent on dialysis. Every other day she is hooked up to a home dialysis machine for 4 hours. The process is exhausting leaving her incapacitated after the treatment. Because she must do dialysis every other day, she is limited to traveling out of her city to visit friends or family. She is unable to work and most importantly she has a 4 year old daughter that she may not get to see grow up.
The manner in which my cousin faces her disease is truly inspirational. She takes each day in stride and does what she needs to do without fuss and with much bravery. She always has a smile on her face and has an air of optimism in her voice. There is no doubt she has her hard days (to say the least), but for all she has to deal with she really is a remarkable individual, one that has done a lot for the Kidney Foundation of Canada, for her daughter, husband and would reach out to help anyone who needed it, without asking for anything in return.
Although there is never enough one can do for her, I would like to thank my sister for having the fundraiser in her honor and bringing some education to her disease. I know that my cousin loves to educate others on her illness, as it is only through education and understanding can such diseases get funding and recognition to develop important treatments.
I wish I had taken more photos throughout the night, as that was the plan. But between eating and socializing I didn't get too many good shots. The menu also deserves some credit. It consisted of a cheese platter, artichoke dip, california rolls, smoked artic char, mushroom dip, sausage, artichoke and roasted red pepper skewers, chicken skewers, truffles, assorted desserts etc...