DENVER (KDVR) — March is National Kidney Month, and medical experts at DaVita are trying to raise awareness for kidney disease.

One in seven people have some sort of kidney dysfunction and often, many of those can be asymptomatic and it’s not always hereditary.

Jason Brightman was diagnosed at birth with hydronephrosis.

“Basically, my kidneys were taking on too much fluid. And I had to have some reconstructive surgeries. But ultimately, my kidneys had gone into a disease state because of that,” Brightman said.  

He had a slow progression of kidney disease until he was a teenager when he ultimately had kidney failure. Doctors were able to get him a transplant at 16 years old, but three years later the kidney failed.

He started doing dialysis three times a week, four hours a day for eight and a half years.

He was a college student at the time trying to work 40 hours a week, and his goal was to improve his health in order to get another transplant.

“I was in and out of work. I was having to go to the hospital more often than your average person. So it was tough for me to find stability. You know, the most stable thing in my life was dialysis,” said Brightman. “[I had] 16-gauge needles in my arm hooked up to this machine while my blood is being constantly filtered through this artificial kidney. It was difficult, it’s a very real situation to be in.”

“Unfortunately, dialysis isn’t a cure. Dialysis replaces kidney function when somebody’s kidneys aren’t working,” said Dr. Jeff Giullian, nephrologist and chief medical officer with DaVita.

Brightman was able to get a second transplant, graduate from college, start a career, get married, and now plans to start a family.

Giullian said in Colorado, there are about 5,000 people on dialysis and about 3,000 people living with a healthy kidney transplant.

Giullian said that a kidney transplant is the gold standard for the treatment of kidney failure.

Kidney transplants are different than other organ transplants because most humans have two kidneys and only need one, so someone can be a living donor if they’re a match.

Giullian said one person willing to donate their kidney to a stranger can start a chain reaction of transplants and can save more lives. It typically happens when someone willing to donate is not a match for their loved ones. 

“An altruistic donor could donate to somebody,” Giullian said. “[Then] that chain can actually kick off a whole series of events. So, that one altruistic donor can mean that five, 10, 15 or even more people could get a kidney transplant.”

During this month, DaVita doctors are encouraging everyone to get their kidneys checked which just takes a simple blood test with or without a urine test.