Right before Lopez’s transplant, Ann recalls, he told her: “I’m not going to be the poster boy for kidney disease.” But as soon as the procedure was over, George felt so good that he wanted to give back, she says. Ever since, George and Ann have worked tirelessly for the National Kidney Foundation, taking part in World Kidney Day, supporting the foundation’s camp for kids, and hosting a celebrity golf classic.
Early detection and prevention are vital, George says. His kidney problem could have been prevented if it had been detected early. He had high blood pressure by age 18, in addition to other symptoms. “My family wasn’t one to go to the doctor,” he adds. “And it cost me my kidney and almost my life.”
Kidney disease affects about 26 million Americans, according to the foundation. And World Kidney Day is meant to raise awareness about the need for more research and for screening. High blood pressure and diabetes are the two leading causes of kidney failure, according to the National Kidney Foundation. When the diseases are treated, however, kidney problems can be avoided or delayed. To preserve kidney health, exercise regularly, eat a low-salt diet, control weight, monitor blood pressure, keep blood sugar and blood cholesterol at healthy levels. Also, don’t smoke, drink moderately (if at all), and get an annual physical, the foundation advises.
At KEEP it Hollywood, celebrities—such as Bryan Dattilo of Days of Our Lives, Kyle Kaplan of 10 Things I Hate About You, Joaquin Pastor of Californication, Nora Kirkpatrick of Transformers, and Josh Sussman of Wizards of Waverly Place—were invited to visit four stations manned by health-care workers. People who got screened were asked about their health history, and had their blood pressure and blood sugar measured and recorded; the final results were reviewed by a physician who looked for signs of kidney disease, which in the early stages can have no symptoms at all.
Later, the public was invited to a free screening. Linda Small, executive director of the National Kidney Foundation of Southern California, expected a few hundred people would be screened.