Walk for PKD

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On Saturday, September 16th, the PKD Foundation sponsored the Twin Cities Walk for PKD, Polycystic Kidney Disease. I was honored to be the emcee this year, as I have been for many years. I always try to make the program fun and entertaining. This should be an inspiring day, congratulating teams and individuals on their fundraising they’ve been working on for months.

I have…ahem…a few connections in the jazz world, and somehow I got super lucky to have a trumpet player in town offer to put together a band and play at the walk. It’s way better than canned music, and Jerry Shelton always puts together a great group. They’re called Yo Jimbo. This year, I called in a special favor from my dear friend Patty Peterson, and of course she was a total crowd pleaser!

I called in another favor from my dear companion, David Skarjune, who took the lovely photographs in the slide show. He really captured the spirit of the day!

I also work to find interesting speakers, and it’s really great to have doctors from Mayo Clinic there to answer questions about PKD studies happening at Mayo. But I have to be honest and say that doctors don’t always make the most compelling speakers. Especially doctors who are working in research. I have found they tend to be more quiet, crazy about data, and long winded. Yes, I said it. So when someone suggested that I included a young doctor who is slated to take over for another doctor who will retire soon, I was skeptical at best. I asked for his phone number.

I called Dr. Fouad Chebib, and he seemed like a very nice young man, but soft spoken and a bit monotone, as I expected. I was just about to thank him for his offer (thanks but no thanks) and sign off, when out of blue he tells me that his father had PKD! Whoa. “Tell me more about that”, I responded. He told me about how his father didn’t know he had PKD until he was in end stage renal failure. He started dialysis and was very lucky to receive a kidney transplant not long after that. Fouad grew up in Lebanon, and the transplant system (and healthcare system) is very different than in the United States. Fouad knew he wanted to be a doctor when he grew up, but it was that experience that inspired him to not only become a nephrologist, but to specifically study PKD! Wow, what a story. I knew I had something very inspiring here. Fouad went on to tell me that he wanted to come to Mayo Clinic to work with the PKD team because he knew it was the best place for his research.

At the event, just before the walk started, I brought him up on stage and I interviewed him, prompting him with questions so he could reveal his story to the audience, and I could have some control over the length of his speech. At this point I want to let you know that it’s difficult to get the attention of an audience at an event like this. People are milling around, there’s a lot of space between the stage the audience, and they’re all itching to start walking. But when Fouad starting talking about his father and his inspiration, there was literally a hush over the crowd. He had the attention of everyone!  It was amazing!

He proved a point for me. Young people who have PKD struggle with the decision to have children, knowing that they have a 50/50 chance of passing it on. My advice is always to have children, because you just don’t know what can happen with that child, or by the time they grow up there could be a cure, OR they could be so inspired by your journey with PKD that they will work to find a cure for PKD. I honestly always thought that last argument was pie in the sky and unlikely. But when Fouad told me his story, I thought to myself “YES! He was so inspired by his father’s illness he is working to find a cure!!” Proof for my theory.

The fundraising goal for the day was $40,000. As I write this, the generous people of the Twin Cities have raised $53,856! And the fundraising continues through December 31st, 2017. If you are so inclined, please consider a donation by visiting my fundraising page.

And, as always, if you are interested in finding out more about donating a kidney, please visit my About page.

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