ESSEX— It’s not easy for Paul Rufe to ask for help. He’s usually the one helping others in the community. However, Rufe has learned that the only way for him to overcome kidney failure is to not only ask people for support through this challenging time, but to donate their kidneys.
“I’m hard headed. When I need a helping hand I just prefer to just ignore it and not ask for help. At this point, that is probably one of my biggest down falls,” Rufe said.
“Honestly, it’s been a hard year without a doubt. Reaching out to family and friends—they have been a life line.”
Rufe, who is known as a loyal volunteer with the Eastern Regional Lions Club, the Guardian Angels, the Heritage Society of Essex and Middle River, and the Essex Day Festival Committee, said he finally accepted he needed to be the one to ask for help after he found out that he had kidney failure.
“I was originally diagnosed with kidney disease about four years ago, but didn’t realize that it was as bad as it was until about two years ago when I found out that I had been misdiagnosed for over a year as to the severity of the disease,” Rufe wrote in his blog post on the National Kidney Registry’s website.
Rufe was told he was at stage 3 kidney failure for roughly a year when in reality he was at stage 4. According to Rufe, the doctor’s office had the wrong information about his condition in the computer system. When Rufe found this out he said he began to go into panic mode.
“The difference between stage 3 and stage 4 is drastic so at that point I was freaking out.”
Rufe immediately stopped going to the doctor who misdiagnosed him, found a new doctor, and started to change his diet.
“At the point I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I don’t have time to start changing. I have to change now and I should have done it a year ago.’”
Rufe said he began to really watch how much fluid he takes in each day because his kidneys don’t produce urine like they are supposed to. He also has to restrict the amount of sodium, potassium, and phosphorous he consumes and that he takes certain type of medicine before each meal to help limit the intake of chemicals that is body can no longer handle on its own.
In addition to these dietary changes, Rufe’s new nephrologist put him on the right path and placed him on a transplant list and lined him up for dialysis.
“After being hospitalized for six days in December, which is when they inserted a catheter in my abdomen and a “hemo-port” in my right shoulder/chest area, I was discharged with a new life which consisted of going to the dialysis clinic three days a week for four hours of hemodialysis at a time.”
Eventually, Rufe said his doctor aloud him to do his dialysis treatment at home, which is called peritoneal dialysis, so that he didn’t have to go to the clinic so often. Rufe said the peritoneal dialysis is more convenient but that it still takes a long time each day—8 to 9 hours to be exact.
“It’s like a full time job. I’m still getting used to it at night because if you roll over the wrong way and you kink [the IV tube], all of a sudden the machine sends off all these loud alarm bells.”
Rufe said his dialysis nurse, Kiafa, along with friends and family who check in on him so he’s not alone during this hard time makes his situation a little easier to bear. Now, Rufe said, the next option for him that’s even better than at home dialysis is finding someone who can donate their kidneys to him.
“I want to get back to being able to live my life again and not just survive by being hooked up to a machine every day. I want to be able to get back to doing what I love, helping others,” Rufe said.
“Get tested. Whether you can help me or help somebody else because that’s the key,” Rufe said.
“Being a living donor is being a living hero because you can save a life. Donating a kidney is going to probably inconvenience you for about a week, maybe two weeks. But be being inconvenienced for a week or to can save somebody’s life. You can’t put a price on that.”
“I have known Paul Rufe for many years, and he is one of the most giving and unselfish people that I have ever worked with,” said Lisa Harlow, another active community volunteer and organizer said.
“We have worked together on many boards and community events, and no matter what is needed, Paul would never think to say no. I hope that someone reads this article and turns out to be the perfect kidney match for Paul. He so deserves to get his health back so that he can have the strength and energy to continue to do what he loves — helping the community. We are all rooting for Paul!”
“Paul is a worker. If there was something that needed to be done in Essex, Paul would help with it. Paul would come to our meetings with community needs and have the club work on alleviating them. He truly had his finger on the pulse of the community. He had (and still has) great working relationships with churches, food pantries, schools, PTAs, and local business owners, helping each out wherever he can,” said Will Feuer, another community activist and friend of Paul.
“It is refreshing to see how much he genuinely loves the community. Seeing his passion and work ethic I knew if I needed help with anything I could count on him. He doesn’t let you down. If he says he is going to do something, consider it done. He has a heart for people, I just hope someone may have a kidney for him.”
If you or someone you know would like to learn more about the kidney donor process and take a survey to see if you could potentially be a match for Paul visit www.nkr.org/xrb335 or call Johns Hopkins Living Kidney Donor Program at 410-614-9345.