Kidney School™—a program of Medical Education Institute, Inc.

Module 1—Kidneys: How They Work, How They Fail, What You Can Do


As you make your way through this module and others, you'll meet people who are having good lives in spite of their kidney problems. One of them is Nancy. "While I was growing up, my father always told me, 'Nancy, you can do anything if you want it badly enough,'" says Nancy Spaeth, RN.

Four kidney transplants, two children, and two graduate degrees later, those words still ring true for Spaeth, whose kidneys failed in 1966. The longest-living patient of the Northwest Kidney Centers' program—the first out-of-hospital dialysis center in the world—Nancy is living proof that it is possible to live long and live well with kidney failure.

How? That's what you'll start to learn in this module. We'll cover:

  1. How normal kidneys work
  2. What happens when kidneys stop working
  3. Causes of kidney disease
  4. Common issues about living with kidney disease

By the end of this module, you will have a Personal Plan that you can print out to remind you of the key points you've covered. So, let's get started.


Nancy: Looking for Answers

"You can find answers to your questions. I know that doctor time is short, so I make a list of my questions. Sometimes I schedule a 20 to 30 minute appointment if I have a serious matter to discuss. You can go to the internet or library. There are books, videos, pamphlets, and audiotapes you can order. The web is full of good information, but make sure you are going to a reputable site. I also call my dietitian and ask her questions. One time, my protein levels were falling. My dietitian looked at my diet and found I was eating enough protein. It turned out that the lab was doing something wrong! But I kept up with it until I got answers. The dietitian is the resource I use the most. Ask someone to refer you to a person who can help you."

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