The Kidney Foundation’s “Warm the Soul” campaign was able to reach more kidney dialysis patients in the Okanagan than ever this year despite the pandemic.
Annick Lim, Teresa Atkinson and Vivian Short of Penticton’s Kidney Foundation chapter have been delivering warm socks to dialysis patients in Penticton since 2018. But this year they were able to expand their reach to Kelowna, Rutland and Vernon, reaching over 200 patients.
In Penticton, there about 50 patients who travel for treatments from all over the South Okanagan.
This year the campaign had an increased focus on mental health as dialysis patients who often struggle with isolation due to spending at least 16 hours a week on dialysis have been even more isolated amid the pandemic.
“This year we’re concentrating more on patients being more aware of taking care of their mental health as people face a lot of time in isolation,” said Kidney Foundation volunteer Annick Lim. “We feel it’s critically important to let all kidney patients, their families, their caretakers to take be very diligent of their mental health at this very difficult time with COVID.”
Lim first launched the “Warm the Soul” campaign in 2018 with the idea to deliver warm socks to patients as kidney disease affects blood circulation and often leaves patients with cold extremities.
“I remember my feet always being cold before I got my kidney transplant and thought our thick thermal socks would make a perfect gift to all our patients going through treatments,” Lim said.
Lim herself is a kidney disease survivor, having been diagnosed before her second birthday. She received a transplant from her father in her twenties. But many kidney disease patients aren’t as lucky, Lim explained. Less than 30 per cent of kidney disease patients survive more than five years on dialysis.
This year, Lim thought of another gift to deliver patients. As kidney disease is often caused by diabetes, some patients have lost limbs. So Lim added toques to go along with socks.
“Because of diabetes causing kidney disease, there’s a lot of people who lose their extremities, their legs, their feet,” she said. “This year, we tried to make it as inclusive as possible and made getting a toque an option for those who preferred them over socks.”
The Kidney Foundation offers help to those coping with kidney disease through their “Kidney Connect” program. The program matches patients with a trained peer who has experienced similar circumstances to help them along their journey. To learn more about the Kidney Connect program call 1-866-380-PEER (7337)
Lim also recommends the “Kidney Friends Circle” Facebook group, where patients can join a network of kidney disease patients, caregivers, family and friends of those living with kidney disease to share lived experiences and learn about upcoming events.