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Shelby Township

Local family goes wild at the zoo to beat kidney disease

May 24, 2013

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It is not clear when James Caruso, an active 7-year-old with kidney disease, will need a kidney transplant. He will participate in the Kidney Walk at the Detroit Zoo June 2.
Facts about kidney disease

• More than 900,000 adults in Michigan have chronic kidney disease.
• In Michigan, African-Americans comprise 14 percent of the total population, but make up 45 percent of those receiving dialysis treatment and 46 percent of those on the waiting list to receive a kidney transplant.
• As childhood obesity increases, so does the risk of type 2 diabetes, a leading cause of kidney failure.
• More than 2,500 people in Michigan are awaiting a kidney transplant as of May 1.
• There are often no symptoms of kidney disease in early stages.
• A total of 70 percent of kidney failure cases in Michigan caused by diabetes and/or high blood pressure could have been prevented or delayed.
• Seniors, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians and Arab-Americans are at a higher risk of developing kidney disease.
* Source: National Kidney Foundation of Michigan

You wouldn’t think that Shelby Township resident James Caruso, a second-grader at Crissman Elementary School, has kidney disease.

The active 7-year-old plays T-ball, likes to swim and practices karate.

However, he cannot play contact sports, such as football and soccer, as many of his classmates do, and he must wear a kidney belt when he rides his bicycle because the rib cage does not protect kidneys in case of a fall.

When James’ mother, Traci, was pregnant with him, doctors were unable to find his right kidney. He was born without a right kidney, only 20 percent function in his left kidney and reflux in his left ureter, causing abnormal flow in the valve between the kidney and bladder.

He’s had a couple of surgeries and goes to Children’s Hospital of Michigan once a month for about four hours of lab work and other tests to monitor his condition and meet with his seven doctors. He now calls the blood work, which he had to be restrained for until he was about 4, a “slide,” because he watched the needle slide in when the technicians drew his blood.

“He tells them which arm and vein to use,” his mother said.

His kidney function is about 50 percent now, she said. “You’d never know it to look at him.”

She explained that James wouldn’t be eligible to receive a kidney transplant until his kidney function falls below 28 percent, at which time she hopes she or her husband, Jim, would be able to donate a kidney. They don’t know if they are a match since they can’t be tested until three months before a transplant would be done.

Also, doctors won’t do a kidney transplant to stave off problems until deemed medically necessary, Traci Caruso said.

“It’s better to leave a body alone as long as you can,” she said.

James will inevitably need a transplant because his kidney won’t be able to sustain his weight as he grows, but it is unclear when that will be. He must take care not to become dehydrated or catch the flu, but he is off a restricted diet and seven of the nine medications he was on.

To raise awareness of kidney disease, the Caruso family — Traci, Jim and James, and daughters Briana, 13, and Katie, 6 — and other families and friends, will walk in the Kidney Walk at the Detroit Zoo June 2 as part of Team James. The National Kidney Foundation of Michigan sponsors the event.

Lindsay White, communications coordinator for the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan, said that more than 4,000 people participated in last year’s event.

“The funds raised are used for prevention programs and patient services in support of Michigan programs from early children through seniors,” White said.

James told White his favorite parts of the Detroit Zoo walk, which he’s participated in since he was a year old, are the face painting, temporary tattoos and seeing the animals.

The Kidney Walk at the Detroit Zoo will start at 8:30 a.m. June 2 at the zoo, 8450 W. 10 Mile in Royal Oak. For information or to donate, check online at or call (734) 222-9800.

About the author

Staff Writer Terry Oparka covers Troy and the Troy School District for the Troy Times. Oparka has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2000 and attended Oakland University and Macomb Community College. Oparka has won an award from the Michigan Press Association and three awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Detroit Chapter.

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