Popular educator shares story of his battle against kidney disease

AUBURN, Wash. -- March is Kidney Disease Awareness Month, and a local dad and assistant principal is sharing his battle with the disease to try to inform and help others.

The Northwest Kidney Center says kidney disease affects one in 10 adults.

At West Auburn High School, Assistant Principal Ben Talbert is a pretty popular guy. In addition to his full-time job at the school, he's also a husband, father of four and he's earning a PhD in educational leadership.

But what many don't know is that he found out nearly two years ago he had chronic kidney disease.

"Normally, people go through several stages of kidney disease before they hit failure," he said. "Mine was very sudden. Over the course of a few months...

"You immediately go on the transplant waiting list so I've got three years of wait time. In the meantime, I'm still considered conditional approval so I'm still seeing specialists to get cleared for that."

Ben spends many hours a week at home on dialysis, his family by his side.

"So now five nights a week here at home, I hook up to my machine for about four hours and get healthy," Ben said.

Joyce Jackson with Northwest Kidney Centers says kidney failure is caused generally by diabetes and high blood pressure.

"Dialysis is a therapy that was invented in Seattle as a therapy for people with chronic kidney disease and we use a piece of equipment -- a machine -- to take away the poisons that build up in your blood when your kidneys don't work."

Jackson said prevention is key -- and that starts with proper nutrition and exercise.

"We actually talk a lot about salt -- it's a four-letter word that we don't like. Salt or sodium in our food, it can make our kidneys have to work harder and it's associated with high blood pressure and high blood pressure damages the kidneys," she said.

While Ben says his goal is getting a kidney transplant, his passion is teaching and counseling his students. And now his purpose is to educate others about kidney disease.

"There is hope and there's help and you are never alone ... life can be good, life can be normal," he said of those battling the disease.