by Natasha Clark -- Assistant Managing Editor
SPRINGFIELD Patricia Reddick-Johnson is hoping that the funds she helps raise for the 2009 Western Massachusetts Kidney Walk make a difference in the life of another.
She is one of the 26 million Americans over the age of 20 who suffers from chronic kidney disease. On Oct. 18, she will head to Forest Park with The Johnson Squad to partake in the second annual Western Massachusetts Kidney Walk.
"2006 was when I realized I was having issues with my kidneys," Johnson said. "I fell ill and found out that I had a tumor in my abdomen and I had ended up having chemotherapy ... later I discovered I had issues with my kidneys."
She officially started having dialysis treatment two years later.
"They don't like to start dialysis because once you start, you don't stop," Reddick-Johnson said.
Sadly, there are more than 76,604 patients awaiting kidney transplants. A new name is added to the waiting list every 12 minutes. Eighteen people die while waiting each day.
The first Western Mass walk drew over 600 participants and raised just under $60,000.
Kathleen Durepo, director of Fundraising and Development for the National Kidney Foundation of New England, said this year they hope to raise $100,000. Her mission is to get more participants volunteers and to spread awareness about kidney disease.
"Most people don't know what kidneys do," Durepo said. "The increase of hypertension and diabetes is on the rise. Those are the two leading causes of kidney failure. Kidney disease proportionally affects minorities ... you cannot live without your kidneys. It doesn't get a lot of attention."
Reddick-Johnson explained on her Web page for the walk just how severe kidney disease is.
"Because I have small veins it has been a struggle with trying to find the correct fistula that will work for me. I currently use a temporary catheter, which is in my chest. However, this is not to be used permanently. Without having an adequate place to use for dialysis I will not be able to continue dialysis and thus I will not live.
"Hopefully with enough research they will be able to develop new ways to address this and help save more lives," Johnson said.
The foundation can use as much help as it can get. Durepo said they are "looking for people to organize teams and corporate sponsors."
The 2009 Western Massachusetts Kidney Walk will take place at Forest Park in Springfield on Oct. 18. Check in begins at 9:30 a.m. and the walk starts at 10:30 a.m. For more information about the walk, visit kidneywalk.org or call 1-800-542-4001.
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