Daniel Kim. Photo credit: Edward Park.

It is estimated that one in nine Americans have some form of kidney disease. Dr. Frank Fung, medical director of the Auburn Kidney Center, said that the two main causes of renal failure are diabetes and hypertension. According to Dr. Fung, it is less common for those in their 20s or younger to be diagnosed with kidney disease.

But Daniel Kim, 26, was diagnosed with renal failure when he was still in high school.

Before the disease, he was very active in sports. He loved football and like any other teenager; he felt like he was on top. It wasn’t until his junior year of high school that his sports physical presented him with a problem. The exam showed that there was protein in his urine which was a cause for concern.

The first thing he wanted to know was if he could still play football. Kim’s parents started to worry and as time went by, he visited the doctor a few more times. The doctor told them that protein in urine could happen once in awhile but other doctors advised for patients to perform a kidney biopsy right away once they find excess protein. The biopsy consists of sticking a large needle into the kidney and grabbing a tiny piece to examine under the telescope.

Kim didn’t perform the biopsy soon enough and his condition worsened. He continued to visit the specialist every two weeks to conduct other tests and ultrasounds.

“For some reason Asian Americans are particularly responsive to environmental factors and are prone to developing diabetes,” Dr. Fung said.

For example, he said that Chinese Americans that moved to the United States have a higher percentage of kidney disease than those who live in rural China. Diet plays a role as well as genetic factors, he said.

Kim was about 17 at the time and thought he was “untouchable.” But when he started dialysis treatment, he noticed a lack of energy.

He said that the hardest thing that he has to do since being diagnosed with kidney disease is watching out for his diet and fluid intake. He has had to stay away from high-sodium or phosphorous foods like beans or cheese.

He has also noticed that when he gets bruises, it takes longer to heal and his body does swell and bruise more easily now. Before the disease, he had heard of other people getting diagnosed with diseases but didn’t realize how close to home it really was until it hit him.

He has been on kidney dialysis for about five years now and he goes three times a week to the Lake Washington Kidney Center. On those days, he takes it easy by going home to relax. But he makes sure that he takes advantage of the other days where he can be active. The dialysis has taken a toll on his body but despite the physical differences, Kim is very optimistic.

“I don’t feel any remorse, I’m not sad about anything,” he said.

Kim is heavily involved with his church, Roots Ministry of the Great Love Church. One of his proud accomplishments with his church was the recently held Seaquence 2009 dance competition.

“That’s my family right there,” he said referring to his fellow church members.

He is a strong believer in divine healing and that helps him maintain his positivity and faith. He used to be negative about his situation but good people around him made him realize how blessed he was.

“People offered their kidneys; I’ve just been so blessed,” he said.

Kim has learned a lot from his situation. He said that he was able to research more about the human body and learn the specific functions of the kidney.

“It’s amazing how each body part works,” Kim said.

The foremost thing to remember is prevention of disease, he said. “It’s very important to prevent someone from going on dialysis and developing kidney failure.”

“There are things doctors can help patients to preserve their kidney functions, it takes a lot of work but it can be done,” Dr. Fung said.

The medical specialist also emphasized that it’s important that people see a physician on a regular basis. Because kidney failure is a “silent illness,” he also recommended for people to have their annual physical exams so that anything abnormal can be monitored and the disease can be picked up early.

He also stated that lifestyle is very important. Since obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, hypertension and kidney diseases, one should do regular exercise and maintain a sensible diet.

Kim’s health hasn’t been easy on his family but they are loving parents which is why he has chosen to help with their upcoming business, World Fresh Asian Eatery, that will feature Asian food and salad bars.

Learning from his battle with the disease, Kim advises people to make sure that they take control of their lives because the sad truth is that often people don’t know that they’re sick until it’s too late..

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