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The Power of Community: What we saw at the Portland Kidney SymposiumRegistered Nurse John A. Fallgren’s entry into the medical field wasn’t exactly typical. He was diagnosed with kidney disease while a student in college, spent time on dialysis while hoping to receive a transplant and was eventually able to have a kidney donated to him by his sister.

“The moment I found out she was a match was the first time I ever cried for joy,” Fallgren told an audience of about 100 people at the annual Portland Kidney Patient & Community Education Symposium on Sunday, March 6.

His keynote speech was part of a day of support and education for kidney patients in the Portland area. The National Kidney Foundation put on the event at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.

The Chronic Disease Coalition was among groups offering materials, resources and expertise on nearly every facet of living with chronic kidney disease. Representatives from Fresenius and DaVita provided information on the various dialysis treatment options available to patients, and groups such as Ride Connection and Northwest Kidney Kids informed people of a number of nonmedical but equally essential support services available to help those with kidney conditions live normal and productive lives. Nurses, social workers and transplant surgeons answered questions over a dialysis-friendly breakfast of hard-boiled eggs and fruit salad.

But what was perhaps most engaging at the symposium was the opportunity provided for patients to learn from each other. Fallgren’s speech about his firsthand experience was followed later in the day by a panel of patients who answered questions from the audience, offering advice from their own experiences on how to cope with the physical and emotional ramifications of kidney disease.

The vibrant community spirit on display on the symposium spoke to the resilience of the many patients for whom kidney disease is a fact of daily life.

Given all that these patients must struggle with, the last thing on their minds should be whether they will have access to the care they need to survive. Unfortunately, far too many patients do have to worry about their care because of insurance issues. From discriminatory network design to the banning of third-party premium assistance, patients are facing an increasing amount of discrimination from the insurance companies that are supposed to be serving them.

The Chronic Disease Coalition is dedicated to opposing these practices from insurers and protecting the rights of patients. We are fighting for a world in which patients need not worry about losing access to the essential health benefits they require. Join our coalition to help make that world a reality.