For 23 year-old Edward Oppong, his passion for exploring art through writing, drumming, and fashion design is what gears him to triumph his struggles with kidney failure. Oppong was born with a dysfunctional kidney, which progressed into kidney failure, causing him to undergo a plethora of medical procedures in both his childhood and adulthood.
“I’ve been on pills since I was a child,” he said. “I couldn’t hold my urine sometimes, and my kidneys grew weaker and weaker till it pretty much failed.”
At the age of 9, Oppong received a kidney transplant, which alleviated some symptoms for thirteen years. However, on February 2013, his kidneys failed again and as result he is currently undergoing a treatment cleansing process called hemodialysis at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Oppong is not battling this alone. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, over 800,000 Americans were being treated for severe kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease in 2009. Furthermore, by 2010, about 300,000 patients were seeking treatment through dialysis. Kidney-related diseases are highly fatal evidenced by its rank as the eighth leading cause of death in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Center for Health Statistics.
“Dialysis gives you a second chance to battle kidney failure,” Oppong explains.
Most of his Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays are spent in the hospital as he undergoes hemodialysis, a procedure that removes bodily waste and fluid to allow adequate blood flow inside his body. As a part of the process, a doctor has to insert a small tube, called a catheter, inside a vein in his arm to help increase his blood flow. Oppong also has to be cognizant of his diet, mostly consisting of low protein, as well as limited salt and fluids. Through it all, Oppong says the most painful part of the procedure is the mental anxiety he has to endure.
“The struggle with it is really dealing with it,” he said. “Health issues affect the mind, its stress. Dialysis is not that bad, just the thought of it like, ‘..i gotta sit here for four hours, linked to a machine, ahh, they’re about to poke my arm..’ you know, like, just the pre-meditated stress of it, before it even arrives.”
Oppong internalize his struggles as a personal inspiration to seek more in enjoying the beauty of life. He currently manages an online tumblr, kopongspeaks.com, where he posts his own poems and pictures of African and American fashion design trends, and explores artwork and photography. He’s also a drummer for the choir at Christ Pentecostal International Church, and attends classes at Truman college.
“I work on art, I go shopping, I talk about my struggles, and I inspire people,” he said. “As deadly as it can be, you’re not dead yet. If a regular working person is lacking inspiration, I know that I am one.”
Pictures and Story by Nana Aduba-Amoah