In 2011 our family was shocked to find out that my brother’s kidneys were functioning at 11% and that he immediately had to begin dialysis at the age of 37 years old. How could this have happened?! Well it turns out that my brother kept us in the dark about his health problems, himself included. He knew he had high blood pressure, was diabetic, and was spilling protein in his urine however he swept it under a rug and continued on as if it wasn’t there. It was after going in for his yearly physical (mandated by his job at the time) that he could no longer avoid the inevitable, his kidneys had finally failed.

I’ve mentioned before that we have a family history of hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease. If we don’t take care of ourselves, terrible things can and will happen. My brother was a smoker for many years and simply ate whatever he wanted and NEVER exercised. He was diagnosed as a Type 2 Diabetic and as having hypertension a few years before the kidney problems which put him at a high risk for kidney problems if he didn’t manage it. Check your risk for kidney disease HERE.

He didn’t and found himself on a dialysis machine multiple times a week just to keep himself alive. My family was tested as possible donors as well as his wife. Out of my family members that were tested, his wife ended up being a 100% match and was willing to step up to the plate as his donor.

A month and a half prior to his surgery, my brother got in the kitchen and began cooking his own kidney friendly meals and started completing HASfit beginner workouts at least 3 times a week and was able to shed 38 pounds. While it wasn’t easy for him to do, he knew that he owed it to his family and children to get healthy. In addition, he did this because he wanted to get into the habit of a new diet and exercise regimen which would then ensure that he’d keep his new kidney working at an optimal level post surgery. This would also help with his recovery process. The Kozaks were incredibly proud of him! It may have come late in his kidney diagnosis but he’s proof that it’s NEVER too late to start.

After a battery of tests, scans, and treatments the day had finally come that my brother would get his new kidney and embark on his new lease on life. On Friday June 20, 2014, my sister-in-law gave my brother and our family the most precious gift we could have ever asked for. She gave my brother another chance at life and another opportunity to get it right. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

It was an incredibly emotional day for all of us especially for my mother. I’m almost positive she still sees my older brother as the curly haired baby that he was. 🙂

I’m happy to report that the surgery was incredibly successful and that my brother received a “Platinum Kidney” as the doctor’s called it as it began to work almost immediately after fusion. While this is all great news, my brother still has work ahead of him as he now will have to do what he can to make sure that his new kidney remains healthy. He still has Type 2 Diabetes and hypertension but we’re hoping not for long. All these things can be managed and hopefully eliminated by diet and exercise. He’s determined more than ever to do right by his body and his wife.

While it took my brother a couple of years to overcome the depression of his diagnosis and the feelings of anger that followed, I know that he hopes that by sharing his story he can be an inspiration to many. His full story is yet to come so stay tuned…

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