FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- Newly married and in the early stages of a promising career in the insurance industry, Fred Podolsky of Fairfield felt on top of the world. But a routine physical required to purchase life insurance revealed life-changing news.
Physicians discovered during the physical in 1987 that Podolsky had just one kidney, and it was already diseased. The devastating result set Podolsky on a path that eventually resulted in a transplant and a position on the Leadership Committee for the National Kidney Foundation.
Now, Podolsky will walk in the 15th annual New York City Kidney Walk on Nov. 13 to raise awareness and funds for the foundation. Click here to visit his fundraising page.
Podolsky, executive vice president of Alliant Insurance Services, remembers the fear he faced nearly three decades ago when physicians told him about his condition.
“It was a complete shock,’’ he said. “I had always been healthy, and this was my first look into what it could mean not to be healthy. My grandmother had passed away from kidney disease, so I was aware of the trauma and despair that it can create. That was the journey that I faced.”
Podolsky adjusted his diet, and physicians monitored his health carefully over the next 16 years. He took a kidney transplant from his younger brother, Jeffrey, in 2003.
“It was like having a monkey hanging over your head,’’ Podolsky said. “You have to adjust your diet. The foods that we love, everything from milk, cheese, pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs -- they all have to be moderated to minimize protein intake. It was always hanging over my head. I was doing a lot of traveling for my job, a lot of public speaking and I needed high amounts of energy. It’s hard when the kidney is not functioning as it should.”
Podolsky, who was named to the National Kidney Foundation Board of Directors in 2013, said the mental drain was nearly as hard, on his wife and family. “It was emotionally draining on my brother, too,’’ Podolsky said. “His health was great.”
His original kidney steadily declined in function. When its function dipped below 15 percent, physicians planned surgery. He knew for nearly a year that that surgery was imminent. He had the procedure in June 2003.
Podolsky walked for the first time in the New York walk in 2010 and has participated with his family every year since.
“The first year was gratifying, exhilarating,’’ he said. “It meant that I was giving back to something I was connected to. It was a great feeling. I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and back, and it was something that I would not have been able to do prior to the kidney transplant. I did not have the energy or the strength.”
He has found subsequent walks even more rewarding. Now 55, he feels he’s as healthy as he has ever been. He vigorously supports the Kidney Foundation and its annual walk to promote awareness for kidney disease, which affects 26 million people.
“It’s not a chore for me, it’s not something I should do,’’ Podolsky said. “It’s something that makes sense to me. I do enjoy it. I do it because I want to do, because it needs to be done and people need to know how serious it is and how many people are affected by it.”
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