‘Her spirit is just unbreakable’

Acacia shared her high school graduation ceremony with two special guests—a doctor and dietitian who helped her through kidney disease and a transplant.

‘Her spirit is just unbreakable’

At age 11, Acacia Walter-Rooks learned she had kidney disease. She would need a transplant to survive.

But you can still achieve your dreams, said her kidney specialist, Julia Steinke, MD.

You will still be able to play sports and pursue your goals. You will graduate from high school one day, Dr. Steinke assured her.

Seven years later, on a sunny summer evening, Acacia donned a cap and gown and walked in her high school graduation ceremony—fulfilling those rosy predictions.

And there, amid her cheering family and friends, stood two special guests chosen by Acacia to witness this moment: Dr. Steinke and dietitian Tracy Howell.

Both were key players on the medical team at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital who saw Acacia through the trials of kidney disease, including a kidney transplant at age 14.

“I love them. They are absolutely amazing,” Acacia said. “I feel like I would not have graduated from high school without them.”

A journey with Katniss

Acacia, now 18, did not follow an easy path toward graduation.

When she became sick, Dr. Steinke told her she had a rare kidney disease called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, which scars and damages the kidneys’ filtering units.

By age 14, Acacia began receiving dialysis three times a week as her kidneys failed.

A flood of donors from the community volunteered to give her a kidney. Beth Hill, a mother of four and a friend from church, passed the tests to become the donor.

In a transplant surgery on April 19, 2016, Acacia received her new kidney—which she named Katniss, after the hero of the “Hunger Games” trilogy.

In the four years since that day, Acacia has continued to see her medical team regularly—either weekly or monthly, depending on her health—and to take medication.

She has also enjoyed an active, busy life at East Grand Rapids High School. She played volleyball, soccer and tennis. She attended homecoming dances and prom.

She endured a tough medical challenge last fall, when her body began to reject her kidney. She missed much of her senior year as she underwent treatment.

“She has a strong kidney,” her mom, Brie Walter, said. “That episode of rejection was hard, but she recovered from it.”

By the time Acacia felt healthy enough to return to school, however, in-person classes had been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet despite the challenges, Acacia completed all her academic requirements to graduate with her class.

“She is an amazing human being,” Dr. Steinke said. “She has been through so much in her life and has really defeated the odds.”

And through it all, Acacia impressed her medical team and family with her determination and optimism.

“She has the best attitude of anyone I have ever met in my life,” Brie said. “She finds something to be joyful about no matter how hard the situation is.

“Her spirit is just unbreakable.”

For Acacia, her positive attitude comes in large part from her family—including her dad, Ryan Rooks and his wife, Rachel, her older sister, Mica, and her mom and her wife, Bekah—as well as her friends and medical team.

A diploma for Acacia

For graduation, East Grand Rapids High School held an outdoor ceremony with lots of space for social distancing. The students could choose someone important to hand them their diplomas.

Acacia’s first reaction: Call Dr. J.

“When she asked me if I would walk with her and give her the diploma, I was just floored,” Dr. Steinke said. “I was so honored.”

She immediately agreed to be there. But on graduation day, Aug. 6, 2020, Dr. Steinke felt the scratchy throat of a possible cold.

She contacted Tracy Howell, who no longer works at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, and asked if she would deliver the diploma to Acacia.

Tracy agreed, and Acacia was thrilled. During the toughest days of kidney disease, when she was on dialysis, Tracy helped her cope with severe restrictions on her diet.

“She would always come visit me when I was in the hospital or on dialysis,” she said.

Tracy walked Acacia across the field and handed her the diploma.

Dr. Steinke, watching from afar and wearing a mask, beamed with pride as Acacia graduated. Dr. Steinke had taken a COVID-19 test that morning—and the result came back negative that night.

Choosing a career

Next up for Acacia: She will attend Calvin University in the fall. She and her older sister, Micah, will share a suite in the dorm.

Acacia is mulling her career choices. She might study business or communications. Or she might become a pediatric nurse—and follow in the footsteps of the many nurses she admires at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

“Definitely if I were to be a pediatric nurse, I feel I could connect with the kids in the hospital,” she said. “I think it would make them feel more comfortable knowing one of their care providers went through something similar to what they are going through.”

She plans to play tennis for Calvin—if the season is not canceled because of COVID-19.

With the transition to college, Acacia said she is nervous and excited.

“It will be new and exciting having all that freedom,” she said. “But, also, you don’t have anyone there to keep you accountable about things.”

She hopes the life lessons she learned as she faced kidney disease will help her face the challenges ahead.

“I feel like now I can really just go through anything,” she said. “With any challenge that comes my way, I know I can get through it because I’ve gotten through this.”

Source : Health Beat More   

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Worried about sleep apnea? Home-based testing is now the norm

Sleep apnea robs people of high-quality sleep, increases the risk of heart problems, and puts people at higher risk of accidents. While an overnight stay in a sleep lab used to be required to diagnose sleep apnea, now this testing often can be done at home. The post Worried about sleep apnea? Home-based testing is now the norm appeared first on Harvard Health Blog.

Worried about sleep apnea? Home-based testing is now the norm

If your bed partner complains about your loud snoring, it might be a disruptive nuisance — or something more serious. High-volume snoring punctuated by snorts, gasps, and brief pauses in breathing is the hallmark of obstructive sleep apnea.

Although this condition occurs most often in men over 40 who are overweight or obese, it can affect people of all ages and sizes. The resulting daytime sleepiness — a direct result of not getting enough high-quality sleep — can leave people moody and forgetful. Even more worrisome: car accidents are two to three times more common in people with sleep apnea. Sleep apnea also can boost blood pressure and may increase the risk of clogged heart arteries, heart rhythm disorders, heart failure, and stroke.

What is the STOPBANG test for sleep apnea?

The easy-to-remember acronym STOPBANG can help you decide whether it’s wise to talk to a doctor about having a sleep study to determine whether you have sleep apnea. It helps to have input from someone who sees you sleep.

A “yes” answer to three or more of these questions suggests possible sleep apnea. Ask your doctor if you should have a sleep study.
S Snore: Have you been told that you snore?
T Tired: Do you often feel tired during the day?
O Obstruction: Do you know if you briefly stop breathing while asleep, or has anyone witnessed you do this?
P Pressure: Do you have high blood pressure or take medication for high blood pressure?
B Body mass index (BMI): Is your BMI 30 or above? (For a calculator, see www.health.harvard.edu/bmi.)
A Age: Are you 50 or older?
N Neck: Is your neck circumference more than 16 inches (women) or 17 inches (men)?
G Gender: Are you male?

Sleep monitoring can be done at home

Diagnosing sleep apnea is less complicated that many people realize. In the past, diagnosing this condition always required an overnight stay in a sleep lab. “Today, about 60% to 70% of sleep studies for suspected sleep apnea are done using home-based tests,” says Dr. Sogol Javaheri, a sleep specialist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. If your symptoms suggest moderate to severe sleep apnea and you don’t have any other significant medical problems, home sleep monitoring is almost as accurate for detecting apnea as a night in a sleep lab, she says.

So, if you suspect you have sleep apnea, ask your doctor for an evaluation. Or if your health insurance allows you to see a specialist without a referral, you can start there instead. “Sleep specialists are better versed in insurance-related barriers, and they know how to order testing to avoid problems and delays in care,” says Dr. Javaheri.

For the test, you’ll get a small, lightweight monitor, a belt you slip around your midsection, a small finger clip that monitors your oxygen, and an airflow sensor to place under your nose. These sensors and devices measure your oxygen saturation, heart rate, and airflow, as well as the movements of your chest and abdomen and your position while you sleep.

One main advantage of home-based testing is the cost, which runs between $150 and $500, compared to testing done in a sleep laboratory, which usually tops $1,000. But the best part about home sleep test is the convenience. You sleep in your own bed, not an unfamiliar hospital bed, and you do the test based on your schedule. However, you’ll need to borrow the monitor from a hospital sleep lab, and you may have to wait a few weeks to get it. Later, if you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, home-based tests also provide an easy way for a physician to check how well your treatment is working.

The post Worried about sleep apnea? Home-based testing is now the norm appeared first on Harvard Health Blog.

Source : Harvard Health More   

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