National Kidney Month

March 23, 2011
left to right: Jaime Makuc, Dr. Michael T. Kovalchik and State Senator Kevin Witkos

left to right: Jaime Makuc, Dr. Michael T. Kovalchik and State Senator Kevin Witkos

Recently, I learned that one in six people living in the United States suffer from kidney disease, but most don’t even know they have it. Kidney disease is a growing concern for many and in an effort to raise awareness, March has been named National Kidney Month. During this time, organizations are working to promote outreach and information about Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and its effects.

On March 10th, which is ‘World Kidney Day,’ I had the opportunity to visit DaVita Healthcare Kidney Center located in Torrington. DaVita is a leading provider of kidney care in the United States. They work to deliver dialysis services and education to patients with CKD and end stage renal disease. DaVita, which is Italian for “giving life,” has more than 1,600 dialysis facilities and has served approximately 125,000 patients throughout our country.

During the World Kidney Day event, I joined area legislators and business leaders in touring DaVita’s Torrington facility and seeing first hand the treatment many Connecticut patients undergo. We were given lab coats, and then asked to listen in as doctors and representatives explained the capabilities of dialysis machinery and how technological advancements benefit CKD patients. With the help of this technology, DaVita is able to offer dialysis treatment at any of their facilities, or for some patients, in the comfort of their own homes.

As our kidneys play a vital role in regulating our bodies, it is crucial that doctors find a means to promote kidney heath or maintain those functions. For many patients, dialysis does exactly this. It is a treatment primarily used to provide a simulated replacement for lost or reduced kidney function as a result of renal failure or CKD.

Dr. Michael T. Kovalchik, a physician and the Director of the Torrington DaVita Healthcare Kidney Center, presented a great deal of information on the five stages of CKD and what DaVita can do to prolong kidney function and a person’s quality of life.

According to a 2008 US Renal Data Service report, 31 million Americans have some stage of CKD and trends in the data collected show that the number is on the rise. Sadly, folks with stage five CKD, or end stage renal disease, are left with limited options in the way of treatment. Those who reach that stage can continue with dialysis or can seek out a kidney transplant. Neither course cures a kidney disease, but both definitely slow the effects.

A common concern of many patients and families with kidney disease is medical coverage. Representatives at DaVita explained, however, that patients needing dialysis treatment are fully covered by Medicaid or Medicare regardless of age, so long as they are qualifying recipients. In 1972, the Social Security Act extended all Medicare benefits to people of any age with end stage renal disease who need dialysis. If you are not yet eligible for Medicare, Medicaid is a joint state and federal funded program that helps pay medical costs for people with limited resources. There are also a number of other financial assistance programs for veterans and a variety of privately financed programs to offset the out-of-pocket costs Medicare or other insurances may not cover.

During the month of March, DaVita and many other organizations will continue encouraging folks all around the state and country to be screened for CKD. While CKD has no known cure, the disease can be drastically slowed with early detection. For more information about Chronic Kidney Disease and what you can do to help those suffering visit