Michigan woman hopes her story will encourage others to watch for signs of kidney disease

Rita White shares her story of battling Chronic Kidney Disease

As a student and collegiate athlete at the University of Michigan, Rita White was always busy. “I was very athletic,” White said. “I was involved in volleyball and track and field. I was pretty much active in a lot of sports. “At that time, I was doing pretty good in terms of health, but near my senior year is where I noticed symptoms that then brought my attention to my health.” One of those symptoms was fatigue. She chalked it up to her rigorous schedule.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – As a student and collegiate athlete at the University of Michigan, Rita White was always busy.

“I was very athletic,” White said. “I was involved in volleyball and track and field. I was pretty much active in a lot of sports.

“At that time, I was doing pretty good in terms of health, but near my senior year is where I noticed symptoms that then brought my attention to my health.”

One of those symptoms was fatigue. She chalked it up to her rigorous schedule.

White would go on to graduate from the University of Michigan, and then Wayne State University Law School in 2001. It wasn’t until then that her doctor noticed a problem during a routine urine screening.

“They ran a urine screen and they noticed there was blood in my urine, and they discovered it was related to kidney failure,” White said. “You know, it wasn’t a really big issue because it was so mild. Initially, I wasn’t placed on kidney medication for kidney stability, and so basically, I was just watching my kidneys and maintaining myself.”

There are different stages of Chronic Kidney Disease. White was in the early stages -- stage one.

Dr. Silas Norman is a nephrologist at Michigan Medicine. He is not White’s doctor, but he said many of his patients’ stories sound like White’s.

“One of the challenges with Chronic Kidney Disease is that until it’s fairly advanced, there really aren’t any symptoms, which is why you end up seeing every 9-10 people with kidney disease are unaware,” Norman said. “When Chronic Kidney Disease gets very advanced, people may find they get more fatigued, have insomnia, develop skin itching.”

Norman said there are things you can do to keep your kidneys healthy.

“The major causes of kidney disease in this country are diabetes and high blood pressure,” Norman said. “That accounts for almost seven out of every 10 cases of Chronic Kidney Disease we see. Both diabetes and high blood pressure can really be impacted by lifestyle changes, so healthy diets, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight are very effective at reducing the effect of high blood pressure and, consequently, reducing the risk of Chronic Kidney Disease.”

White developed both high blood pressure and high cholesterol. As the years passed and her condition worsened, she started dialysis in 2018 at home, with the help of her husband. Then, last year, she received a kidney transplant.

She has this advice for anyone who will listen: “Focus on your body and focus on what you feel. If you hear positive things about what to eat and what’s healthy, take note of that, because it’s really important what you take into your body.”

The National Kidney Foundation of Michigan works to raise awareness of kidney disease. The organization’s biggest fundraiser will be held Saturday (April 2) at the Motor City Casino Hotel in Detroit. The Kidney Ball starts at 6 p.m. Click here to buy tickets.


About the Author:

Kimberly Gill joined the Local 4 News team in November 2014. She was named Personality of the Year in 2009 by the Ohio Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame. She’s also a two-time Emmy winner.