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When Patrick Gee, PhD, first learned he needed dialysis, he was stunned. He had never even seen a kidney doctor before and was shocked to find out that longstanding type 2 diabetes had led to kidney failure. He was diagnosed with diabetes in 2003, and 10 years later he found himself undergoing dialysis, followed by evaluation for a kidney transplant.
Gee, an ordained minister, has since had a successful kidney transplant and is also the founder of iAdvocate, Inc., a faith-based health and wellness organization that he describes as a “merging of faith and science.” He considers himself to be a “wounded healer” who now helps other “people in the midst of a health crisis.” He does not give medical advice, but he does share his story with others and guides people toward health resources, so they “don’t have to go through all the ups and downs” he experienced.
Gee receives requests from “all over the country,” from pastors and physicians alike, to pray and provide emotional support for people and caregivers dealing with chronic kidney disease.
Journey to Kidney Transplant
While going through the extensive medical evaluation required to be listed for kidney transplant, Gee learned that “African Americans tend to crash and burn” while waiting for transplant “and are diagnosed with kidney disease at later stages” than their peers in other racial groups. As a Black man, he is keenly aware of how fortunate he has been and notes it was heartbreaking to witness friends at his dialysis center pass away prior to becoming eligible for transplant. Now, he says, “I make it a habit to encourage people to ask me every question possible” about kidney disease and the transplant process, so they can be proactive about their health.
After 14 months on the waiting list, Gee underwent transplant in 2017. He experienced multiple complications right after his transplant, however, and required several surgeries to address them. He was hospitalized for over a month and spent an additional week regaining his strength at an inpatient rehabilitation facility. On top of these setbacks, his new kidney was slow to function properly and didn’t begin to work until 47 days after the transplant. Gee credits the faith he developed during this experience as ultimately “launching his ministry” and spurring the creation of his health advocacy organization.
I make it a habit to encourage people to ask me every question possible about kidney disease and the transplant process, so they can be proactive about their health.Patrick Gee, PhD Founder & Chief Executive Hope Dealer, iAdvocate, Inc.
Health Advocacy and Hope
Looking back on his transplant journey, Gee wishes he had known more about the importance of prioritizing his kidney health and addressing his risk factors for kidney disease. He notes that while he took his diabetes medications consistently, it was never made clear to him that diabetes could lead to kidney failure. He believes there is a “need for more boots on the ground” to help educate communities about kidney disease risk factors.
Gee adds that once people require dialysis, they are often emotionally and physically depleted and “are fighting just to be seen and heard.” He considers himself a “voice of the voiceless in the fight against kidney disease.” While he recognizes that there is much more to be done to educate people, he believes that actively advocating for the kidney community is a powerful tool to improve outcomes. Gee finds his advocacy work extremely rewarding and above all, he simply states, “I like to spread hope.”
Hear more from Gee during the Achieving Health Equity: How Can Comparative Clinical Effectiveness Research Help Address Structural Discrimination? breakout session. View the full annual meeting agenda and register now!
About the 2022 PCORI Annual Meeting Blog Series
In the weeks leading up to the Annual Meeting on October 26 and 27, we are featuring a different breakout session panelist, their patient-centered work, and their participation in sessions on COVID-19, health equity, intellectual and developmental disabilities, maternal health, social determinants of health, and telehealth.
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