This morning I went by my doctor's to have my blood pressure checked -- I actually had to make an appointment for this -- and my reading was 120/80. Hurray! For a while now my readings have bordered on being high: 135/89 or 140/85. My daughter told me the lower number represents your resting blood pressure and that nowadays doctors like to see that number in the 70s. But when I was young 120/80 was considered normal.
The LPN (licensed practical nurse) who took my blood pressure was young African American woman. Shorter than me (I'm 5'3"), very pretty and with a lovely sunny disposition she smiled and said, "You're doing something right!" I wanted to hug her.
My blood pressure is extra important now because I'm seeking to donate a kidney to my daughter who lost kidney function in January of 2008. A beautiful twenty-something she went to an Urgent Care clinic with what she thought was a bad cold or the flu. They took blood and urine samples and sent her home with a prescription for an antibiotic. Her tests revealed her kidneys were functioning at 10 percent and that she was severely anemic. (The kidneys secrete a hormone that stimulates red blood cell production in the bone marrow.) The clinic called her and told her to get to an emergency ward immediately.
Like many seemingly healthy young people my daughter is a victim of IgA nephropathy, an auto-immune disease that can result in permanent kidney damage. As soon as we heard the diagnosis -- permanent kidney damage -- I volunteered myself as a possible kidney donor. I remembered an aunt who donated a kidney to her daughter way back in the 1940's. They both lived long healthy lives afterwards.
I was ready to get on the operating table in January of 2008. But we soon learned things were not that simple. She's been on dialysis for two years now. In the first kidney transplant program she registered with her transplant coordinator resisted me as a possible donor from the beginning. Because of my age. I am 67. She would not even agree to test my blood until I proved myself exceptionally healthy. I made the mistake of telling her my blood pressure was sometimes borderline. That made things even worse.
Recently, Katie applied to Vanderbilt's Kidney Transplant Program here in Nashville. I accompanied her as a post-operative care-giver and possible donor. They took my blood the same day (right after they took hers) and I soon learned that I am a blood match for her. Hence, my double excitement about my good blood pressure reading.
But what have I been doing right, as my beautiful nurse said?
For one thing, I've lost seven pounds. For another, I've been on a gluten free diet for about two months now. Of course, this second thing has helped with the weight loss since it eliminates bread and anything else made with flour. It has also alleviated my irritable bowel syndrome, something that has plagued me ever since I can remember. I have not been diagnosed with celiac disease for which a gluten free diet is recommended (in fact, it is the only treatment for it).
In a roundabout way, the gluten-free diet has improved my eating habits overall. I eat more fruits and vegetables, partly to replace toast and sandwiches and partly because I seem to crave them more. I've also cut down on fats, red meat and have switched from regular to turkey bacon.
Finally, brown rice has become the gluten-free starch that holds my diet together. I cook it in a ricer two or three times a week. It's always on hand so I can eat it when nothing else is. I buy Lunden's Short Grain Rice in bulk at Cost-Co (NOT at Whole Foods! I boycott them because of their right-wing, anti-union Chief Operating Officer.)