June 15th, 2024

Kidney Walk returns Father’s Day weekend

By ANNA SMITH Local Journalism Initiative on June 7, 2024.

asmith@medicinehatnews.com

Father’s Day weekend will see community members gathered to walk in support of those affected by kidney disease.

The Kidney Foundation of Canada Southern Alberta’s annual Kidney Walk has been hosted every spring for more than a decade in both Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. Local Kidney Walks serve as a platform where individuals impacted by kidney disease, along with their loved ones, kidney health professionals and community members can come together to offer mutual support.

Medicine Hat’s leg of the Kidney Walk is on Sunday beginning at 10 a.m. from Medicine Hat College. The walk starts from Centennial Hall and can be either one lap (2.75 km) or two (5.5 km). Registration opens at 9 a.m.

Local nurse clinician Jodi Harkness, from the Medicine Hat Hemodialysis Clinic, has participated for many years on behalf of her patients.

Harkness walks not just for her patients however, but also for her brother, who is a donor, and for the memory of her father, who was diagnosed with a rare form of Amyloidosis, a condition that eventually led to kidney failure. The donation of her brother’s kidney granted her father 10 more years of life.

The experience with her father’s illness and transplant profoundly influenced her career.

“I grew an interest in nephrology,” said Harkness. “That’s where I am now, and that’s where I plan on staying. I love it.”

The family has participated in the Kidney Walk many times, her father even enjoying being present when he could no longer walk himself. One of the most memorable events for Harkness was watching her father push himself to complete the walk as his mobility was decreasing, using a walker to participate despite having no feeling below his knees.

“I was in awe, watching this man walk the walk,” said Harkness.

Jodi’s Kidney Walk team, “Cool Beans,” consists of more than 20 kidney health professionals and supporters.

“I think that is why I enjoy it so much, seeing my patients. It’s really nice being all together outside of work and having the day,” said Harkness. “It is important … they become like family.”

While kidney disease is a lifelong journey, and can take many things from a patient, it cannot take away hope, the Kidney Foundation says, adding that many kidney patients are remarkably resilient.

“It absolutely amazes me the strength they have despite how unwell they feel and what their bodies can overcome and do. They are such strong patients. They have such a will to survive and a will to fight and live, and I find it very admirable. Because often it is not just kidney disease they are fighting, it’s diabetes or other comorbidities,” said Harkness.

One in 10 Canadians is living with kidney disease, the foundation says, and the number continues to rise. Sadly, most people with kidney disease show no symptoms until they have lost most of their kidney function.

The walk aims to help spread awareness, and invites residents to join the walk and celebration. Registration is free, and the event is perfect for the whole family, with games, food and lots of prizes.

Those interested are encouraged to visit kidneywalk.ca for more information and to register.

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