article written by the home doctor team

When Levi Van Eck first felt sick he thought it was just a case of the man flu. And, being a teenager, his mum Rosemarie didn’t think much of his sleepy ways.

“He had a sore throat and was coming home from school, just laying on the couch and sleeping. His friends were also sick at the same time with the flu,” she said.

But, when Levi saw a GP two weeks later, the verdict was much more serious.

“The doctor asked him to stick out his tongue. His tongue was really white and I could see alarm bells going off,” Rosmarie said.

Levi’s kidneys were failing and he needed urgent treatment. It was 2014 and he was only 15 years old.

“They believed he was in renal failure. I had no idea at the time what it was. I had no idea what to expect,” she said.

Levi felt the same way.

“They basically said that my kidneys had stopped working and were running at 12 per cent. I was pretty nervous. I didn’t know what was happening,” he said.

Are there symptoms we can look out for?

A sudden diagnosis, like Levi’s, is typical of kidney disease. Jenny Kempe, a clinical nurse who specialises in renal care, says it’s known as a “silent killer” among health experts because there are often no warning signs.

“They’re just basic vague symptoms, so quite often you just think you’re working too hard and you’re getting old but, in fact, you’ve actually been quite sick,” she said.

“It’s a silent disease in many ways. It’s awful because it affects all the other systems of the body so not only do you have kidney failure, it also affects your heart, your bones and lots of other things.”

According to Kidney Health Australia it’s not “uncommon for people to lose up to 90 per cent of their kidney function before getting any symptoms. Here is its list of symptoms which could indicate kidney failure.

A “silent killer” in more ways than one

Kidney disease has earned its notorious title not just because it’s hard to detect, but because it’s not on many people’s radar.

“You don’t see it. The people on dialysis machines are behind closed doors. The illness itself is insidious, it sneaks up on people so they just gradually become sicker and sicker,” Ms Kempe said.

Early detection is the key to fighting kidney disease, experts say

Levi was lucky, but his battle back to health was long and painful. For 12 months he was in hospital every second day for five hours of dialysis.

He underwent multiple operations, spent time in intensive care and felt very unwell most of the time. In June last year, his mum donated a kidney which saved his life. He’s since made a full recovery.

The Van Ecks have shared their story to make others aware of the disease, and to pass on a message echoed by health experts.

“If you’re feeling sick, just go to the doctor to make sure everything’s okay. You never know what’s going to happen, it could be a normal flu or it could be kidney failure,” Levi said.

patient with Kidney Disease

If you are feeling unwell, please consult with your GP. If it’s after hours and your regular GP is closed House Call Doctor has GP’s available. Appointments can be booked online or by calling 13 55 66.