Ambassador spotlight: Dennis Harris

What made you want to become an American Kidney Fund (AKF) Ambassador?

I wanted the ability to share my story as a way to give people hope and knowledge about topics that are of great importance to the kidney community.

How has being an Ambassador helped you?

Being an AKF Ambassador has helped me become a great resource for people who are looking for knowledge. Being able to share my struggles and journey has helped me become very understanding.

What have you learned from being an Ambassador?

I’ve learned that everyone needs an example of someone or something they can relate to. Being available when someone needs you—for whatever reason—means the world to people.

Why should others become Ambassadors?

The more people who become AKF Ambassadors means there will be a greater chance that people will have more things in common with others who are or have been in similar situations. For example, I am a teacher and coach, and having a chance to talk with a teacher about challenges really made a difference for me.

How would you like to stay connected to other Ambassadors?

I would like to stay connected to others by continuing outreach in any form, as well as participating in upcoming events and outreach projects.

What is something you’ve learned about kidney disease and dialysis that you wish you knew a lot sooner?

The impact of kidney disease and dialysis can and will change your life and all the people around you.

What do you wish elected officials knew about people who are on dialysis?

I wish elected officials knew how stressful being a dialysis patient is, and all the strain it puts on patients, their families and their friends.

Do you have any advice for people who have been newly diagnosed with kidney disease?

I’d like to let new kidney patients know that there is a lot of information coming at you in the beginning. Please don’t get overwhelmed! Know there are options out there that can help you live a normal life. You will just need to make the best decision for you and your family.

How does it help having a family member be part of the process?

Having a family member as part of the process is very important. They can and will hold you accountable, as well as learn about your condition to help you make all the best choices for you and your family.

What are some interesting facts about yourself that you’d like to share?

I’ve been a teacher and football coach for the past 20 years.

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About the Author

Dennis Harris

Dennis Harris is a kidney and pancreas transplant recipient. He received the kidney from his wife, Darlene, in 2012, and before that he was on peritoneal dialysis. Dennis works as a high school health and physical education teacher, as well as a high school football coach, with Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland.