LOGAN SQUARE — A Humboldt Park native is taking an active step toward raising awareness against a deadly disease, years after “the silent killer” almost killed him.
Danny Perez, 35, will walk in the 15th annual Walk for Kidneys in Soldier Field on Sunday, more than two years after a routine check-up led to an emergency room visit that same day.
A series of tests including bloodwork and three biopsies over the course of several days found that his kidneys were “at the end of their life.” Perez was “dying from the inside out” with 5 percent of his kidneys functioning properly, he said.
Doctors call it “the silent killer,” he said, because it develops slowly and patients often go undiagnosed until their kidneys stop from failure.
A steady flow of rushing blood can be felt under a thin layer of skin on Perez's left forearm. The pulse is visible around several newly healed dialysis puncture holes. All of his blood is cycled through the dialysis machine three days a week for a three hours each day to act as an external set of kidneys — the machine is the only thing keeping him alive, he said, as his system would otherwise overflow with lethal unfiltered toxins within two weeks.
Perez, a Logan Square resident, has worked on behalf of the community with the Northwest Side’s BUILD Chicago, an anti-violence organization that engages youths in Austin, East Garfield Park, Humboldt Park and Logan Square; he said his work with the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois should also serve as a community service.
“I was devastated when I got my diagnosis. You think, 'How is my life going to change?'” Perez said.
In many ways it did. He was recently engaged at the time, and used to have an active nightlife, but the couple could only go away for a few days on their honeymoon because he can’t live without regular dialysis, he said.
“I was dying inside,” he said. "But not everyone has the support system I have, so I wondered what more I could do to help people.”
Medical issues carry on with Perez to this day, including adverse reactions from the treatment that is saving his life — “It’s kind of a cruel joke,” he said with a laugh.
In some cases, kidneys of similar types can be split, transplanted and still function individually, making them the largest number of so-called “living donations.” But chronic kidney disease affects more than 26 million Americans, making early detection a crucial factor in fighting the disease.
“That’s why awareness is so important; there are no symptoms," Perez said. "I feel like it’s my duty to put the word out.”
Sunday’s Walk for Kidneys fundraiser will kick off at Soldier Field’s Stadium Green Lawn at 10:30 a.m. (check in and health fair opens at 9 a.m.). The 3-mile walk is free and open to the public.
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