A new study out of Albert Einstein College of Medicine has found that young adult blacks nationwide are 50 percent more likely to die of kidney disease while on dialysis than whites. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
Samantha Jones was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome at 16, her kidney failed by 21, and due to an unsuccessful transplant, she's been on and off dialysis ever since.
"I think the most difficult part for me is trying to figure out dialysis and traveling. My social life—it’s really not existent," Jones says.
It's a serious commitment, especially for an active young person.
Dialysis takes a three-hour and 45-minute chunk out of her day, three times a week.
Maintaining that schedule along with all the other stressors of life may be part of the reason that fatality rates are so high among 18 to 30-year-old Blacks on dialysis.
"What we found was that young adult blacks were 1.5 times more likely to die compared to young whites on dialysis," says Albert Einstein/Montefiore Medical Center Nephrologist Dr. Tanya Johns.
In her study of over 11,000 patients, published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, Johns found the difference in mortality between blacks and whites is most noticeable when looking at blacks living in poor neighborhoods.
Part of the issue is diet and genetics.
"...access to healthy food, access to things like safe parks for recreational activities—so the condition of the neighborhood could affect your health," Johns says.
Another factor: the young feel invincible, so they're less likely to have health insurance of see a doctor when they're feeling ill.
"We do find that a lot of the young adults tend to what we call crash into dialysis rather than being prepared for it, which is associated with better survival," Johns says.
The response for acute kidney failure is dialysis via a catheter. In the long run, this has worse health outcomes than getting a fistula put in, which is a surgically created connection.
"The lumps—a lot of people don’t want that and they feel like the catheter is a temporary thing. I’m not going to be on here that long. It's more painful. I don’t want to do the needles," Jones says.
Dr. Johns says there needs to be more grassroots and legislative intervention in these neighborhoods.