patient stories

A dedication to helping others

Kidney failure did not come as a surprise for Richard Beach; almost 25 years ago, he was told that his kidneys had begun deteriorating and that one day, he might need treatment. He closely monitored his creatinine levels and was able to put that off for many years.

About two years ago, to learn more about kidney disease and how to live well with it, Richard and his wife attended Puget Sound Kidney Centers’ chronic kidney disease education program, Survive and Thrive. He describes this six-week program as “very concise” and a great way to reteach them how to menu plan, shop, and prepare foods that were tailored to their health needs and, helpfully, how to “cut corners with salt.” Richard really appreciated the PSKC program, taught by various medical professionals, especially the level of detail provided and the amount of time allotted for discussion each week—talking through examples and experiences other patients have had really helped reinforce the impact changing behaviors can have.

Richard is currently retired from the Air Force and a phone company but continues to volunteer his time as a critical member of the Snohomish County Emergency Management team, developing and implementing radio communication for natural disasters, including earthquakes, fires, floods. The team prepares for any situation that communication may be compromised (i.e. loss of internet) so that emergency services can continue to operate and provide help to those who need it. They also look at ways of linking with other networks on the state and federal level, so that key information regarding events can be handled appropriately. He is part of a core group of volunteers who, up until the coronavirus pandemic, were meeting twice a week at Paine Field in Everett. They now still meet once a week but hope to ramp back up in the near future.

These days, Richard dialyzes at Puget Sound Kidney Centers’ Mountlake Terrace facility, having started a couple of months ago, and is feeling better already. Richard, we certainly hope we won’t need your radio skills, though we’re sure glad that you and your team are there in an emergency!

Living Life to the Fullest

Musician, actress, singer, poet, activist, student and social worker are all titles held by Andrea Skywalker over the course of her extraordinary life. Born in Germany to a German mother and a Black American/Cherokee father, she credits her father’s military background and her mother’s meticulous nature with instilling in her a discipline and drive that would help her pursue her many interests. She has traveled extensively, and, with a degree in Human Services, she has enjoyed a long career as a social worker for the State of Washington. During her tenure as a social worker, she worked with victims of domestic violence, seniors and other people in need. “I like helping people who can’t help themselves.” She adds, “I want to leave something positive and beautiful in this world to promote unity.” Andrea enjoys the performing arts and has appeared on the stage and screen as a singer, musician and actress. She continues to perform at local venues.

In 1999 she suffered a major stroke which left her in the hospital for 2 months. She had to re-learn how to walk, talk and function, and her determination would be essential in her rehabilitation efforts, “As soon as I could walk, I went back to work. Never give up” she advises based on her own experience. When her doctor told her six years ago that her kidney function was declining and she should prepare for dialysis, Andrea was adamant that dialysis was not for her and she managed to keep her kidneys functioning for six more years. Eventually her kidneys would fail and she was faced with the ultimate choice. At this point, she did choose to continue living with the aid of dialysis treatments; “I decided I’m too busy to die.” Just a few months after beginning dialysis Andrea celebrated the debut of her first book, entitled “The World As I See It.” Now Andrea has just completed a second book and will soon be recording a music CD. She shares, “Even though dialysis is time consuming and takes up three days of each week, I often think about where I’d be without the dialysis. I choose to be grateful and to be happy that I’m still alive.

Enjoy a poem from Andrea’s new book, “The World As I See It”:

I’M SUPPOSED TO LIVE
I GOT THINGS TO GIVE
I GOT PLACES TO SEE
DON’T YA KNOW
I GOT PLACES TO GO
IN WIND – RAIN – AND SNOW
AND THE CLOCK KEEPS TICKING
REAL SLOW

WHEN I WAS 63
I WAS TIRED AND CRANKY
AND MY PRESSURE
WAS WAY TOO HIGH
AS MY KIDNEYS WERE FAILING
AND I LAY AILING
I WOKE UP AND SAID
NO – I’M NOT GOING TO DIE

I’M SO LUCKY I GET A SECOND CHANCE
TO WALK AND TALK
AND LEARN HOW TO DANCE
MAYBE FIND A LITTLE ROMANCE
TO APPRECIATE EACH MOMENT AND SAY
HOW ARE YOU TODAY

LET’S TAKE A CHANCE
AND DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY
CAUSE I’M SUPPOSED TO LIVE

By Andrea Skywalker @2017