The Kidney Foundation of Canada

Kidney Stories

Lonzo Lucas Jr.

In the year 1998, at the age of 30, I decided to join the Navy.  It was then and there that the medical staff discovered something terrible. During a routine urine test for protein, the results came back with a 700 mg/d reading (normal values for urinary protein are less than 300 mg/d).  The acting physician, thinking this was a mistake, requested that I wait and provide another urine sample.  An hour later, the results were worse- 800- and it was at that moment the powers that be decided to ban me for life from the military.  I was sent to see a specialist on the other side of town in Orange County, California and the news got worse: I was given the results, after a battery of tests, that not one but both kidneys were failing - and the only way to know why would be to go through a biopsy.  I’d never had one of those before but once they were done with me, I never wanted to have another.  It took me a week to recover from it.

Lonzo in action at the Tsitsikamma National Park, in South Africa

Next, I went back to see this specialist who relayed to me that I was suffering from an extremely rare disease called  Focal Glomerular Sclerosis and that it was responsible for the rapid decline of my kidneys. According to the results of the biopsy, the disease lay dormant for years and some unknown factor triggered it.  In five years I would lose all kidney function and end up on kidney dialysis.  The news hit me like a ton of bricks; when I broke the news to my parents they felt devastated, confused and helpless.  As they would tell me later, it was tough to watch as my health declined and they could do nothing to help me.  Despite all of the doctors’ best efforts to reverse the irreversible, my kidneys failed in 2000 and I found myself on kidney dialysis.

After fistula surgery, I awoke to a tube attached to my carotid artery; my right arm was heavily bandaged.  Hemodialysis was not kind to my body and as result I found myself in a lot of pain, cramps to be exact.  After a year of not feeling well, I’d had enough and opted to try something new, peritoneal dialysis.  This didn’t work out because of complications to my peritoneal cavity so I had to go back on hemodialysis.  I could never think about traveling outside of the state let alone the country, and this didn’t serve my emotional or spiritual state well.  In fact I became the stereotype of the patient who couldn’t see past his/her situation--I’ll dwell more on this as my story unfolds.  I decided to try continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD), a procedure similar to peritoneal dialysis except the exchanges take place at night and once in the morning.  Everything went well until a major infection (peritonitis) developed literally overnight and landed me in the hospital for a week.

Dr. Ken Hughes with his wife at the 2011 KFOC Annual Meeting
Lonzo at Seal Island, near Cape Town in South Africa

During my five year stint on dialysis, I went back to school and got my Masters’ degree in Public Administration; this was the only positive thing that had meaning in my life at that time. But I would find myself going in and out of the hospital; and on the last visit, I was fighting for my life.  My middle brother had seen enough and decided to donate his kidney, saving my life.

The transplant allowed me to travel places that I could only dream of.  For example, I was able to move from California to Georgia and later to South Korea where I became an English teacher.  During my time there, I found my wife and together we travelled to places like Ethiopia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, with more destinations to follow. 

Unfortunately in 2011, due to circumstances beyond my control, I lost the transplanted kidney and had to go back on kidney dialysis.  However, my outlook is so much different than it was back then. I know that another transplant is right around the corner, but in the meantime I am living my life to the fullest and hopefully, something I say on my blog will inspire those who are in my situation to rise above their condition and live.  Follow my blog at