What I Am Reading: Kidney Edition

Jun 01 2011 Published by under Uncategorized, What I'm Reading

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Walter A. Hunt's new book fills a niche in the kidney disease market: a book by a patient about living with the knowledge that your kidneys will fail, living with failed kidneys, and surviving it all to get transplanted. The subtitle, A Guide for Living, sums it up nicely; you can survive and thrive with kidney disease. In this age of self-help and patients empowerment, it seems impossible that no one has written this book before now. Unfortunately, Walter A. Hunt is not a typical kidney disease patient (more on that later), so the book may not have as broad an audience as possible.

The book flows in the predicted fashion, from what kidneys do and why they fail, though the diagnostic tests and treatment options available at each step of the way. Throughout the book, the author remembers that each patient's disease will be different, and that no single prescription can fit everyone, especially before the onset of end-stage kidney failure. Personal insights on adapting and dealing with issues may be of benefit to many patients, especially if they lack an understanding support system.

My major criticism of the book stems from the author's background. Dr. Hunt holds a doctorate in neuropharmacology and performed biomedical research for 30 years before his diagnosis with polycystic kidney disease. While this background certainly helped him understand his condition, the writing in the book likely exceeds the health literacy of much of the population. Terms like "diffuse" may not be familiar to the average kidney patient (even though I am certain most heard it in a science class somewhere along the way), but clearly he assumes that word will be understood:

Dialysis involves filtration. Start with a basic concept: imagine a tank of water into which you carefully place a drop of ink in one corner of the tank. The concentrated ink tends to diffuse over time throughout the entire container of water until it reaches the same concentration in all parts of the tank.

Starting with a definition of diffusion might have been useful for the average adult in the US.

Kidney Disease: A Guide for Living may not be a perfect guide for patients, but it fills an empty slot on the patient's bookshelf. Motivated patients may find it a valuable addition to their kidney disease management tools.

2 responses so far

  • How much simpler could his explanation of diffusion have been?

    • WhizBANG! says:

      Believe me, using the word "diffuse" as a verb would confuse most people I see in the clinic. The ink example works well, but I would talk about it mixing throughout the water until the fluid in the tank looked one lighter color. This mixing process is called diffusion, and it happens with liquids even when we can't see the mixing.

      Science and health literacy must never be overestimated, and it is difficult to underestimate it.

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