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Christina and Michael Gilchrist Share Their Story for National High Potassium Day

Meet AAKP Ambassadors Christina and Michael Gilchrist, who are known throughout the kidney community as "Blind Chick Living" and "The Caretaker,” and their always close by service dog, Moose.

Christina’s Kidney Story
In her early teens, while getting a physical for cheerleading, Christina was discovered to have protein in her urine and diagnosed with kidney disease. At that time, additional testing was not done to find the cause and her doctor told her that it was not something to worry about until she was older. That unfortunately proved to not be true in Christina’s case, however it wasn’t until much later she would find out that her kidney disease was caused by Complement 3 glomerulopathy (C3G).

C3G is a disease that causes inflammation and damage to the filters of your kidneys.

When she was in her early 20’s and pregnant she developed pre-eclampsia (toxemia), but it was undiagnosed by her doctors. The pre-eclampsia became a dangerous complication for her, causing seizures that led to her retina and optic nerve imploding. This left Christina blind. The pre-eclampsia also caused total kidney failure.

Christina’s oldest brother became her living kidney donor, but unfortunately the kidney rejected after about a year and a half. In 2011, she started dialysis. As a young single mother, she asked if she could do home dialysis but was denied due to her eyesight and lack of a care partner. She went on to do in-center hemodialysis for over five years until finally a deceased donor kidney became available for her.

Once transplanted, Christina felt like she could “start living and having fun again” and that is when Michael and Christina first met. She shares that “Michael slid into her DM’s.”

However, during this same time, Christina’s second transplant started rejecting. This time, she insisted on doing peritoneal dialysis (PD), which is a home dialysis treatment, and would not take no for an answer. Christina felt that she could keep on living life on her terms with PD as her dialysis modality. In fact, she was able to do dialysis all over the country, including dry camping with solar panels and on the back of a motorcycle. She and Michael eventually got married, and she did PD on their honeymoon.

"Don't tell me I can't, show me how I can!"

High Potassium
After about three years, Christina’s PD stopped working properly due to an abdominal adhesion that was causing her dialysis tube to not remain attached inside her. Unfortunately, she was not aware of all the toxins that were building up in her body. Since she was not dialyzing effectively nightly, toxins built up more and more. One night she woke up in a panic feeling like she was having a heart attack. The couple rushed to the emergency room thinking she was not going to make it, and Christina even called her daughter, mom, dad, and family to say goodbye. At the hospital, they found out that Christina’s potassium level was elevated, and she was hyperkalemic. The symptoms of high potassium are similar to a heart attack. Doctors were able to address the high potassium, and Christina started in-center hemodialysis once again. She also had to have open heart surgery to repair a valve and pericarditis toxicity.

High potassium, also known as hyperkalemia, is a condition when the amount of potassium in your blood is higher than it should be. High potassium is generally considered to be any level above 5.0 mEq/L (milliequivalents per liter). Learn more at www.AreYouOK.org.


"I don't live to do dialysis; I DO DIALYSIS TO LIVE"

The couple was able to transition to home hemodialysis with Michael’s help. As a new home hemodialysis care partner, Michael felt he needed support. After looking and not being able to find a support group that fit his needs, he started his own. That was the start of LIVING on dialysis for the couple again! “We have traveled all over the country advocating for home dialysis options and sharing how we are LIVING!”

Christina and Michael are always happy to share information and show how their dialysis machine works, no matter where they are at. They are active on social media and encourage you to visit #blindchickliving to learn more about their adventures.

The couple shares that not taking kidney disease seriously can be very dangerous which could result in death. This is why Christina and Michael are strong supporters of National High Potassium Awareness Day and encourage you to learn all you can about the importance of potassium management and kidney disease.