ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — In 1982, Ron Minor was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
Minor worked out, improved his eating habits and made regular visits to his doctor. The Annapolis resident lost 40 pounds and nearly reversed the effects of the disease, but his kidneys eventually started to fail.
"It wasn't like I was sick. I looked normal. I was just tired all the time."
Minor, now 67, needed a kidney transplant five years ago. The donor was his wife of 26 years, Kathy.
"How many people marry their kidney?" she said.
The transplant was a success, but Minor's experience inspired him to educate the public about chronic kidney disease.
"Of all the people with the disease we met, the response was always the same, 'I didn't know,'" Kathy Minor said.
That became the title of a documentary Ron Minor started working on almost immediately after his operation.
"I Didn't Know" is scheduled to premiere on WHUT-TV (the public TV station of Howard University in Washington) at 9 p.m. Sept. 18. The film will be rebroadcast at 1 p.m. Sept. 19 and 2 p.m. Sept. 20.
Minor said chronic kidney disease is an epidemic. "I just want to get the word out."
The 44-minute film discusses common causes for kidney disease such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure, and explains African Americans are at much greater risk than other races.
Minor, a retired editor and videographer with NBC4-TV in Washington. created the documentary with the help of many of his former colleagues, including sportscaster James Brown, who narrates much of the film. Minor used his retirement fund to pay for the $100,000-plus project.
The documentary touches on his story, but focuses mainly on people such as Virginia resident Raymond Brooks, who has spent the past 13 years on dialysis.
Brooks was born with one kidney, which failed when he was 15 because of a condition in which scar tissue formed on parts of his kidney. He received a kidney from his mother, but it failed almost 10 years later.
Brooks, 36, goes to dialysis every other day, which leaves him exhausted. He's on the transplant waiting list, but said finding an exact match is unlikely.
"Before all of this, I had plans," Brooks said. "I wanted to be someone. I wanted to do things. I feel sick all the time. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy."
His mother, Hazel Harris, hopes the documentary will raise awareness of kidney health and encourage donors.
"I'm praying to God it catches a lot of people, because it's not only his story, it's so many other people's story."
Television and documentary producer Kathy McCampbell-Vance, of Washington, said the film encouraged her to become an organ donor. She's a former colleague of Minor's at the NBC station.
"Seeing the anguish of the people who were suffering and the joy of those who were recovering moved me to tears."
Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://capitalgazette.com