1. What made you want to become an advocate?

I am an extremely grateful person, so I strongly believe I should become a better voice and face for my fellow kidney patients (30 million plus), with decision makers in our country and community.

Ralph Mickle

During my dialysis time, I had great support from the AKF, family, friends, and my medical team. That is the main reason why I need to share my experience and testimony with other patients and decision makers; to let fellow patients know that there are many ways to defeat our disease and a lot people who may help us live a better life!

2. How has kidney disease affected you and what has been your biggest challenge?
First of all, "Your illness does not define you. Your strength and courage DOES!"

It did affect me, but it was a lesson well-learned. Today, I take care of myself a lot better and I am healthier and stronger than when I was diagnosed with ESRD. My biggest challenge is restarting my career. I want to be productive and efficient again, but I need to be patient. I do my best staying up to date, but I do miss the routine and the discipline at work.

3. How has being an advocate helped you?
I've always been a humble and respectful person. Being able to share my detailed testimony and influence decision makers, by explaining both sides of a kidney patient, dialysis - post transplant, has helped me be a stronger person/advocate and explaining to them what they can do to improve the lives of many patients. I am living proof of what the AKF has done, is doing, will do and it is my duty to share these results and encourage others. By showing others how thankful I am, it keeps me on my toes, while hoping to encourage others.

4. What have you learned from being an advocate?
To always move forward. To always focus on my goals. To take full advantage of the opportunity given to be an advocate and make a major difference in our community. To know that I am doing my best to make a difference and to help fellow patients to understand that it can be done. I love to be coached and I also love to coach others.

5. Why should others become advocates?
To show others what they went through, how grateful we are for the second life opportunity we've been given, and to coach others and be aware of your health issues, before they reach a difficult point. I was a diabetic, I did not take good care of myself, I then had to be on dialysis and then I was given a second chance with a transplant. I now need to help others avoid similar "life mistakes" I made.

6. What is something you’ve learned about kidney disease and dialysis that you wish you knew a lot sooner?
Bottom line, if you are a diabetic, please manage it a lot better, and you will avoid a lot of complications. I's NOT really that hard. Just eat better and healthier, do more exercise, talk to your doctors and be aware always of your health!

7. How would you like to stay connected to other advocates?
Personal friendships/relationships, multiple advocacy trips in our great nation, social media platforms, continuous coaching and learning opportunities, and a strong and solid relationship with the AKF.

8. What are your best tips to get through the dialysis treatments?
Always be honest and respectful with your family and medical staff. Solid relationships with your care providers help you a lot. Follow instructions and you will see quick results. Stay active, DO NOT limit yourself, especially on non-dialysis days. Live them like nothing had happened the day before.
Travel, visit family and friends. Do your best to live your life like a regular person and don't allow depression and anxiety to reach your core!

9. What do you wish elected officials knew about dialysis patients?
They and their teams need to witness our environment up front and in-person. When they see a family member or a friend sick with a kidney disease, they will understand. Also, and very important, do not let them feel sorry for you, make them understand that with their help and support, you will finish the race and be able to live a better Life! We need to show them that we are being strong and courageous and that we need them on our team!

10. Do you have any advice for newly diagnosed kidney patients?
Please be aware of your options, set a game plan, train hard, become a healthier person, be informed, share your experience, DO NOT let your illness define you, finish the race, and be strong and courageous!