Washington Redskins Stars Help Tackle Kidney Disease

By Carla Peay
Updated: April 28, 2006

Washington Redskins stars Shawn Springs, Randy Thomas and Chris Cooley on Capitol Hill to speak in support of Kidney Care Partners. Photo Courtesy William Stewart

Washington Redskins stars Shawn Springs, Randy Thomas and Chris Cooley on Capitol Hill to speak in support of Kidney Care Partners. Photo Courtesy William Stewart

WASHINGTON — She works in a health care facility, and sees them everyday. Many have already lost limbs to this disease, and are confined to wheelchairs. Their bodies have been ravaged by diabetes, hypertension and kidney failure, and now need dialysis treatments while they wait and hope for a new kidney.

Her name is Jacquie and she has worked with countless dialysis patients in her twenty-plus years as a nurse. She has waited with them and helped them through their treatments – a three to four hour process in which a machine essentially functions as a kidney would, by recycling and filtering the blood, cleansing it, and returning it back into the body.

The process is long, and sometimes painful. But it’s a necessary step to maintain life as the patient waits and hopes for a kidney transplant.

“It’s devastating”, she says. “Especially the way it’s affecting African Americans. Sometimes this disease can run in certain families, but there are ways and means of controlling it with education. And the education has to be ongoing. We need preventive care. We need early recognition, early treatment, and control”, she adds.

She knows all about Kidney Care Partners, and is pleased that help is on the way for the patients she has come to know and care for. Jacquie is also a Washington Redskins fan, perhaps now more than ever.

The growing problems of kidney disease are being fought not only in the halls of Congress, and through organizations like Kidney Care Partners, but also by Washington Redskins stars Shawn Springs, Chris Cooley, and Randy Thomas, whose passion to fight this disease comes from their own personal experiences, and a desire to battle more than opposing teams on Sunday afternoon.

“My father was diagnosed with diabetes about ten years ago. I know the affect that diabetes had on his kidneys. My dad is on dialysis three times a week, and I’ve seen how it’s affected his life. I just wanted to say, how can I help?” said Shawn Springs, whose father Ron Springs was also an NFL player.

A community leader and activist in the tradition of Redskin legend Darrell Green, Springs also partners with JDF, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, one of the many entities supported by his Springs For Life Foundation. Springs called it an honor to be asked to speak on behalf of the Kidney Care Partners.

In conjunction with Congress, Kidney Care Partners is sponsoring the Kidney Care Quality Improvement Act. This legislation would provide additional patient education services to help at-risk individuals understand kidney disease, and learn how to prevent or delay its onset.

It would also ensure equitable payment for dialysis treatment centers for patients. During this National Minority Health Awareness month, Kidney Care Partners remains committed to battling the crisis that is kidney disease.

The numbers are staggering. More than 400,000 people suffer from kidney failure. Thirty-two percent are African American. Nationwide, an estimated 20 million people have kidney disease, with an additional 20 million at risk to develop the disease.

“It was tough for me to see my dad, who’s always been a strong figure in my mind go through dialysis three times a week. He’s always been my role model. I’ve met people of all ages and races who suffer from kidney failure. We have to get the awareness out there. We have to help educate people, so we can raise money to fight this disease. People have to be educated on the symptoms. Kidney failure can come from obesity, diabetes, and we just have to get the awareness out”, adds Springs.

Randy Thomas has also seen the struggles of kidney disease in his family. Thomas spoke eloquently about losing his grandmother to the disease at a reception on Capitol Hill, which was sponsored by Kidney Care Partners and the Congressional Kidney Caucus.

“I’m still young. I wasn’t educated about kidney disease or diabetes or high blood pressure. You just don’t learn about stuff like that growing up”, said Thomas.

“This will help us get the young people to see what their relatives are going through. It doesn’t matter if you eat well or exercise well, for a lot of people, this disease is hereditary”, added Thomas, who admitted that he fears the onset of the disease in his own life someday. The work of the Kidney Care Partners is something he and his teammates believe in strongly.

“It hits home when people you know suffer from a disease that they absolutely have no control over”, said Chris Cooley. “As professional athletes, we can help make a difference”, added Springs.

Jacquie and her patients couldn’t agree more.