SAINT ANTONY Texas-born actor and comedian Reginald Ballard has lived with kidney disease most of his life.
I remember my mom telling me, your feet look swollen, so she took me to the hospital. They told me I had kidney disease, Ballard said.
Despite the early diagnosis, the actor best known for his role as Bruh Man on the hit 90s sitcom Martin, didn’t start having serious health issues until he was 54.
When I was playing football, I thought I couldn’t be injured at all. I was in good shape, I never drank in my life, Ballard said. Then one day, my hands, my feet swelled up. Then the doctor said, now you have to do dialysis. So I did dialysis for eight months.
Ballard received a transplant in part because of a kidney swap with his wife Edith, who donated her kidney to someone else so Ballard could get one from someone else.
They donated his kidney to someone in California and I got my kidney from someone who was in North Carolina. Someone in Florida got another kidney because the person in North Carolina was friends with the person in Florida. My wife actually saved two people with her kidney, Ballard said. A lot of people don’t know that you don’t really have to be a perfect match, even if we were. But you’d make a trade and you’d get a kidney much faster.
Ballard is now the spokesperson for the Texas Kidney Foundation and wants people to know it’s never too early to get tested. Kidney disease is called the silent killer because it is difficult to detect in its early stages without screening.
The foundation reports that 90% of Americans don’t know they have chronic kidney disease, and it’s more common among African Americans and Hispanics.
Black and Latino, our diets are terrible and that’s why we have the problem we have. It was very important to me because I’ve been there and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, Ballard said.
Tiffany Jones-Smith, CEO of the Texas Kidney Foundation, said one in three people are at risk for kidney disease in Texas.
In Bexar County, we have 800 new people on dialysis every year. This county, the 17th largest county in the United States, is a microcosm of the population with kidney disease, Jones-Smith said.
Jones-Smith said the foundation is testing 8,000 people this year for kidney disease.
The reason is that diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and obesity are the four main causes of kidney disease. And diabetes is the leading cause here in San Antonio and Bexar County, Jones-Smith said.
On Saturday, TKF and the San Antonio African American Community Archives Museum or SAAACAM will host the third annual Juneteenth Night at the San Antonio Missions Baseball Game to raise funds and awareness for kidney disease and to screenings.
Ballard will throw the first pitch. He said he was grateful to have a new outlook on life.
You see your lineage, your lifeline going through a machine and it was tough, Ballard said. I felt it was very important to get my story out there and let people know the importance of screenings.
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