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Student and kidney patient Eric Devone hosted health fair to educate his peers and neighbors on chronic kidney disease

Fellow Pender High School students and residents of the Currie community were the beneficiaries of a chronic kidney disease (CKD) health fair hosted by Eric Devone, a soft-spoken, rising senior at Pender High School and patient at the UNC Kidney Center. A public event to promote awareness about CKD was a surprising choice for a quiet young man who has rarely even acknowledged his condition to other students and neighbors, but when asked why he chose to sponsor a health fair about CKD, Eric responded, “I wanted to step out beyond my normal activities and encourage other young people with a chronic disease to know that they can play sports, and have fun like other kids their age– I wanted my classmates to understand what it is like to live with kidney disease.”

Armed with brochures, self-assessment instruments, and t-shirts proclaiming the importance of asking “HEY DOC, HOW ARE MY KIDNEYS?”, Eric conducted a CKD health fair and provided personal testimony about living with kidney disease and how the disease often caused him to withdraw from school activities and not realize his full potential.

Eric wanted to help his fellow students and neighbors to understand the disease that “affects his life, but no longer controls it.” He was not always so comfortable speaking about his health and the likely need for a kidney transplant but Eric acknowledged the role of his pediatric nephrologist, Dr. Bill Primack, and his transition coordinator, Kristi Bickford, in helping him to understand kidney disease and the importance of being more self-directed in managing his health.

As Eric answered people’s questions about CKD and described his struggle to live his life more fully, he acknowledged that the single most important influence in changing his attitude about his future, was the opportunity to attend a week of Kidney Camp in the North Carolina Mountains for two summers. Taking his first solo trip on a bus, playing sports and games, talking with other teenagers about life, watching movies, eating pizza and experiencing a normal teenage existence with other young persons living with a chronic disease helped Eric to begin to see a future that included participation in recreational activities and pursuit of his dream to become a chef. His new-found confidence was obvious to his teachers and counselors at Pender High and he became more receptive to their efforts to help secure further education and training, possibly through Job Corps.

One unanticipated outcome of Eric’s CKD health fair was that people elected to donate for the t-shirts he had planned to give away. Over four hundred dollars was donated during the fair and Eric has asked that these funds be used to help send another young person with a chronic disease to summer camp. Well done, Eric.

Those of us at the Kidney Center are excited about Eric’s plans to become a chef and pursue his dream of restaurant ownership.