(WJBK) - Former FOX 2 staple Al Allen opens up about wife's battle with kidney disease
For almost three decades, FOX 2 News Morning viewers came to love reporter Al Allen. Now in retirement, life is pulling him in a different direction and he spends his days in a much different role.
Al now devotes his time to be at the side of his wife of 50 years, Alfreda, who has kidney disease. The two spend countless hours every week at the Beaumont Dialysis Center in Southfield, as Alfreda relies on the machines there to survive.
"It's good to be grateful to know that with the machines and the dialysis, is what keeps me alive," Alfreda said.
"That machine is a kidney," Al said. "That's what it is."
In their early 70s with two grandsons, this is not how Al and Alfreda expected to spend retirement. But Alfreda's health struggle is complicated.
She's fought bone cancer, but a recurring bowel obstruction destroyed her kidneys. Dialysis removes all the blood from her body, filters out the toxins and fluids and pumps in clean blood.
This is her life until she's healthy enough for a kidney transplant.
"I smile when I say this, but you know I'm hoping for a kidney," she said.
Al knows, for some, the outlook seems overwhelmingly grim.
"It is a thin line between life and death," Al said. "We've met patients who said that are giving up, they just don't like it anymore. They give up and a few weeks later they pass away."
There's a physical toll; emotionally it's not easy; and then there's the financial cost.
"Each treatment costs Medicare almost $4, 000," Al said. "That is almost $12,000 a week."
That's why Al and Alfreda want to share their story, sending a strong message about protecting your health. Alfreda couldn't prevent her kidney failure, but in most cases, you can control your risk for kidney disease.
High blood sugar and uncontrolled blood sugar are the two biggest risk factors. The advice is to talk to your doctor about simple tests because once your kidneys don't work, life is never the same.
"We could just go somewhere and not even think about it," Al said. "Now you have to plan for it, and you have to plan sometimes weeks ahead of time."
On a recent visit back to FOX 2, Al shared some stories and smiles. He will never stop being the newsman, but understands he's needed elsewhere.
"I still miss working," he said. "I guess it will take a long time before I get adjusted to that. But I'm here with her to make sure she's okay."
"One of the good things about all of this for me is that my family and my husband have been there for me," Alfreda said. "To help me through this."
Al and Alfreda are hoping to be a part of the Kidney Foundation of Michigan Annual Kidney Walk. It's happening this Sunday at the Detroit Zoo.
Rich Luterman will be there and the goal is to raise money to fight kidney disease. You can get more information on the 2017 Kidney Walk at the Detroit Zoo online HERE.