Survive and thrive with Tena!

Happy World Kidney Day! This is a great time to think about taking care of your kidneys. Even if you’ve been diagnosed with kidney disease already, there are ways to slow your kidney disease down. Keep reading to hear about one woman’s experience doing this.

Two years ago, Tena saw a brochure at her nephrologist’s office for PSKC’s Survive and Thrive with Chronic Kidney Disease program, a free community class hosted by PSKC year round. The goal of the program is to teach people with early kidney problems about making successful lifestyle changes. Subjects covered include healthy eating, exercise, blood pressure management, coping with kidney disease and treatment options. In class, participants meet with a doctor, physician assistant, social worker, dietitians and patient mentors.

Tena H. learned more about dialysis through our Survive and Thrive program.

Tena was newly diagnosed with stage three CKD and had a lot of questions and concerns about living a healthy, happy life. After attending the first class, Tena started to feel that “this disease is not a death sentence and there’s a lot of hope.” Specifically, Tena found hope and support hearing from members of the patient organization, The Road Back to Life. “They really make you listen and know you’re not alone.”

After completing the classes, Tena said she learned many new skills to promote her health or, as she calls it, develop a “new normal.” She learned that the nutrition piece and social work piece are just as important as the nephrology visits. She also learned how to appropriately read food labels, cook with different herbs and spices, and plan ahead to carry out a fulfilled life. Tena’s support network expanded as well. She said she walked away from the class feeling that “when you share, you can connect.”

Now Tena is taking what she learned in class and bringing it to her community. Most recently she connected with PSKC social workers to talk with her peers about advance care planning. Thank you, Tena, for sharing your story and helping us ignite new conversations about health and wellness!

Learn more about our free classes at

Lance and Marni: a caregiving story

Lance and Marni met 45 years ago in New Mexico, raised two daughters and have lived in Arlington for the past 20 years. About three years ago, they received some unexpected news. Marni was told that her kidneys were failing and she should prepare for dialysis. Just six months later, they found themselves checking in for dialysis treatment at PSKC Smokey Point.

Marni, on dialysis at PSKC Smokey Point, with husband Lance.

Lance, retired, studied the dialysis process. Since day one, he has documented every one of Marni’s treatments — her blood pressures, medications taken, blood sugar readings and more. Mostly, Lance looks for trends so they can catch it if something is amiss. He is happy to be Marni’s “medical advocate” and so much more by doing all the cooking, cleaning and housework as well.

Marni stays busy outside of dialysis, teaching tole painting classes out of their home every Thursday night. Supplies, including wood characters that Lance builds, are included in the cost of the class.

There are many ways to adjust to dialysis, and together Marni and Lance have figured out a way that works best for them. By writing it all down, Lance provides helpful information to get the best care for Marni and engages himself in a positive way. Marni continues to spread her passion for art even while tackling dialysis and other health challenges. A strong and solid pair, Lance and Marni are an inspiration to all.

2017 Gift of Life dinner & auction raises more than ever before!

A big thank you to the 240 guests who attended our annual Gift of Life dinner and auction in September. We raised a record $237,000—the most dollars ever raised—at this year’s event!

Guests at the event take a look at the Puppy Package during the silent auction.


“It was truly a great evening. It really is special to see so many people turn out to support the work we do at Puget Sound Kidney Centers,” says Harold Kelly, president and CEO of PSKC. “Those of us at PSKC feel very fortunate to be part of such a caring community of friends and colleagues who share in our mission to enhance the lives of people with kidney disease.”


The ‘wine grab,’ always a favorite!


This year’s event also had a record number of sponsors and auction donors, and because of their support we were able to raise additional funds to support patients.

See more photos from this year’s Gift of Life dinner & auction below. We’re already looking forward to next year’s event and we hope you are too!


Guests Denise and Pete Sontra.

Karen and Chris Schmitt.

Auctioneer Nelson Jay.

Guest Jenni Tyner and friends.


We couldn’t do what we do without the support of the amazing community around us. Learn more about what we do for kidney patients and those at risk for kidney disease in our community.


Happy strumming! In between dialysis treatments, Ukulele Mike shares his music around the world

When a young Michael Lynch found a dusty ukulele that his sister brought back from Hawaii years earlier and began to teach himself, little did he know what a life-changing moment that was to become. Ukulele Mike has now taught the instrument to thousands of people around the globe.

Michael Lynch, known around the world as Ukulele Mike.

As a teacher in the Seattle school district and local private schools, Mike brought the magic of the ukulele to countless school-age children throughout his career. Thanks to his online instruction videos, Mike also has an international following. He now receives videos back from accomplished students in Korea, Japan, New Zealand and around Southeast Asia. They all respond back with different variations of his catchphrase “happy strumming,” which is how he ends each lesson.

Mike started dialysis almost two years ago, but he is still able to write, produce and share his music around the world. He admits his most productive days are his off days, but he’s never allowed his illness to stop him. He’s currently planning a second ukulele cruise, where he and his wife, Collene, teach ukulele to passengers for four or five days at sea, on their way from California to Hawaii. Mike also currently works with musical instrument builder Oscar Schmidt Co., and has developed the Mike Lynch Tenor Ukulele, complete with his signature on the headstock and available for purchase online.

Visit to learn more about Ukulele Mike.

Puget Sound Kidney Centers’ Annual Dialysis Conference a big success

We held this year’s Annual Dialysis Update conference on May 18, 2017 in Lynnwood, WA and were very pleased with our top-notch presenters and the discussions that ensued from their presentations. Designed to address key issues affecting the rapidly changing field of dialysis and the impact of such changes on patient health outcomes, the conference aims to inform professionals in dialysis care about recent developments in the field and allows attendees to exchange ideas and practical solutions with one another.

Presenters discussed dialysis access, the appropriate dialysis prescription and managing mineral metabolism in dialysis patients. They also covered poverty, something many dialysis patients face, and the benefits of home hemodialysis.

Surgeon Dr. John Crabtree presented on peritoneal dialysis access at this year’s conference.

We were thrilled with the feedback we received from attendees.

“Extremely varied program kept conference interesting. Top-notch speakers.”
“Great conference! Kudos to organizers and speakers.”
“Excellent caliber of speakers! Love the combination of high quality clinical care and science with the tops of compassion and humanizing dialysis.”
“Great in every way!”

The conference, co-chaired by renowned nephrologist Dr. Suhail Ahmad and Dr. Pamila Keech, Puget Sound Kidney Centers’ chief medical officer, welcomed healthcare professionals from near and far.

ADU conference attendees listened to presentations.

Dr. Pamila Keech, Puget Sound Kidney Centers’ chief medical officer, with Dr. Donna Beegle. Dr. Beegle presented on poverty to this year’s conference attendees.


We’re already looking forward to next year’s event! Check back on our website next Spring for information on the 2018 conference.

And make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date with other Puget Sound Kidney Centers events.


Puget Sound Kidney Centers team walks at first annual Seattle Kidney Walk

We had a great time walking at the National Kidney Foundation’s first annual Seattle Kidney Walk March 26, 2017 at Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners!

Participants walked four laps around the concourse inside Safeco Field, heard from kidney researchers and leaders from the National Kidney Foundation and other nonprofits, and received information about kidney disease and ways to prevent it.

Puget Sound Kidney Centers’ team members David and Bob above center field at the Seattle Kidney Walk March 26, 2017 at Safeco Field.

Puget Sound Kidney Centers also sponsored the walk that raised, in total, more than $90,000 for the National Kidney Foundation. These funds help the nonprofit work to raise awareness of kidney disease around the country and support programs for kidney patients and those at risk.

Puget Sound Kidney Centers’ walk team members included (L to R): Michelle, a social worker at PSKC, Bob, from The Road Back to Life, Sara, a dietitian at PSKC, and Jane, executive director of the Puget Sound Kidney Centers Foundation.

Our CEO, Harold Kelly, and 20 staff members, family and friends walked as the Puget Sound Kidney Centers team. A huge thank you to all who took part in the walk and a special congratulations to Michelle who, as our team top fundraiser, got to run the bases at Safeco!

Puget Sound Kidney Centers’ top fundraiser Michelle runs the bases at Safeco!

The walk served as a good reminder that exercise goes a long way towards preventing kidney disease. Other ways to prevent kidney disease or slow it from progressing include:
• Keep your salt intake to a minimum
• Avoid high protein diets
• Choose foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol
• Stop smoking
• Maintain a healthy weight
• Get moving! Exercise regularly.

Find out more ways to prevent kidney disease or, if you do have kidney disease, check out our free classes to learn how to slow it down.

And make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get more tips for living well!


Pioneering home dialysis: Susan Vukich

When you meet Susan Vukich, you immediately notice the warmth in her eyes and her welcoming nature. As you spend more time with her, you realize you are in the presence of someone very special, someone who exudes inner strength and purpose. As you come to know her history, you realize that she and her daughter, Caroline Helm, have had a profound effect on thousands of people.

With support from her parents, Caroline willingly accepted the use of home dialysis in the early 1960s, helping establish this treatment method and paving the way for others living with end stage renal disease. Back then, dialysis was a scarce resource. To undergo treatment at the Seattle Artificial Kidney Center, patients had to be approved by members of a select panel. Choosing patients was difficult—for every available spot, there were at least five medically acceptable applicants. Among the applicants denied treatment at this time was Susan’s daughter, Caroline, who at age 16 was considered too young to be treated.

Above: Susan getting trained on home therapy. Photo courtesy of Northwest Kidney Centers’ archives. Source unknown.

Her doctor, the renowned Dr. Belding Scribner, was determined to help Caroline and thought that if she couldn’t dialyze at the center, she might be able to dialyze at home. Because no home technology existed at that time, Dr. Scribner enlisted the help of Dr. Albert Babb, a chemical biomedical engineer at University of Washington, to lead a development team. Working against the clock, as Caroline’s health declined, they developed a small, safe dialysis machine for home use in just four months. Caroline became one of the first home dialysis patients in the world.

Although she appreciated the opportunity for treatment, being the first to do home dialysis had its challenges. Susan and Caroline faced many crisis moments in the converted laundry room that served as their home dialysis station. But in spite of her illness, Caroline embraced life to the fullest and became president of her high school honor society, attended the University of Washington, and enjoyed her friends, family and hobbies. She lived three additional years as a result of the treatment. Since then, thousands of lives have been saved with the technology she helped pioneer.

Caroline on dialysis at home. Photo courtesy of Northwest Kidney Centers’ archives. Source unknown.

Susan Vukich remains grateful for those additional years of life Caroline enjoyed. That gratitude has inspired her to dedicate more than 45 years of caring and support for people living with kidney disease. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Puget Sound Kidney Centers and remains a passionate advocate and supporter of patients and their families.

Harold Kelly, President and CEO of Puget Sound Kidney Centers, describes Susan as a lioness, an indefatigable supporter of thousands of patients as they attempt to deal with life while living with kidney failure. We admire Susan for her compassion, tireless focus on quality, and strong desire to see the Puget Sound Kidney Centers and the nonprofit, community-based, model of health care and dialysis continue to thrive.

Thank you, Susan and Caroline, for paving the way for home dialysis and creating a lasting legacy for our organization and kidney patients.