His wife was facing kidney disease. So a Mequon husband changed his lifestyle to donate one of his.

Deborah Hufford and her husband Evan Jones are shown in hospital gowns at St. Luke's shortly before entering surgery.
Deborah Hufford and her husband Evan Jones are shown in hospital gowns at St. Luke's shortly before entering surgery.

After being diagnosed with kidney disease for more than three decades, a Mequon woman learned the function of her kidneys was plummeting, and fast.

In January 2022, Deborah Hufford, who's a writer, was told by her doctor that she should start dialysis and be immediately put on the kidney transplant list. Family members volunteered to donate a kidney, but were rejected because they either were on blood pressure medication or had the same disease, Hufford said.

So her husband, Evan Jones, decided to change his lifestyle to lower his blood pressure with the hope that he could eventually be approved to donate a kidney. He stopped drinking alcohol and went on a mostly plant-based diet.

It worked.

With his efforts, doctors approved the donation and completed the transplant in December 2022.

Kidney disease is a leading cause of death in the U.S. with more Americans dying of kidney failure per year than from breast or prostate cancer, according to The National Kidney Foundation.

It's a disease that affects an estimated 37 million people in the U.S. and approximately 90% of those with kidney disease don't even know they have it.

The disease means that the kidneys are damaged and losing their ability to filter blood. During the early stages of the disease, most people don't have symptoms, but as the disease progresses, waste can build up in the blood and cause symptoms.

Despite being born with kidney disease, Hufford didn't discover she had it until three decades ago when she gave birth to her daughter; she developed preeclampsia and tests later revealed that she had only 25% kidney function.

Hufford gives credit to Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center and the Kidney Transplant Team, led by Dr. Ajjampur Vidyaranya, and to hospital staff for her surgery and recovery.

The same day her husband was approved as her kidney donor, Hufford got another dose of good news.

She landed a publisher for her historical novel, Blood To Rubies, which details the life of the Native Americans who saved Lewis and Clark.

"It was truly a miracle," Hufford said. "Like I had won two mega lotteries."

Here's how you can get tested for kidney disease

Kidney disease can go undetected, and that's why Hufford said it's important to get tested for it, especially if you might be noticing symptoms.

Anyone can get kidney disease at any time, according to the National Kidney Foundation. If it's found early, it can be slowed or even stopped from getting worse.

Two tests can be used to determine the function and heath of the kidneys. A urine test can determine if there is a type of protein called albumin in the urine. If there's too much protein in the urine, it can indicate there's early kidney disease in the body.

The second test is a blood test to measure for a waste product called creatinine. When the kidneys are damaged, they struggle to remove the waste from your blood, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Risk factors for the disease include diabetes, high blood pressure, age and a family history of kidney failure. For more information, visit the National Kidney Foundation at www.kidney.org.

Contact Alex Groth at agroth@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @grothalexandria.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Mequon husband changes lifestyle to donate kidney to his wife