Donald JonesTackling Kidney Disease — On and Off the Field

The 2013–2014 NFL season is in full swing, but one wide receiver has decided his kidneys are more important than the calling of the gridiron.

Donald Jones, who played wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills, retired before the start of the season citing his ongoing battle with kidney disease.

“My health and family comes before football, playing longer would have been too risky for me,” Jones said. “I have talked to a lot of players and fans from around the NFL about my decision. The support I have received is amazing and I’ve heard from a lot people who have kidney issues themselves.” Jones’ battle with kidney disease started in college. While in his sophomore year at Lackawanna College, Jones was diagnosed with IgA Nephropathy.

“My first thought was, why me?” he said. “I was young and in college; no one in my family had it. It was a shock to everyone.”

Jones was lucky that symptoms showed early and doctors were able to identify and manage the condition before it resulted in kidney failure. Catching kidney disease early allowed Jones to carefully monitor his health, blood pressure and eating habits; it also allowed him to continue to pursue his passion, football. But the ordeal also put life into perspective for Donald, who admits he wasn’t as focused prior to the diagnosis. “It really made me grow up fast,” he said. “Now it’s all about family and family values, letting people know you care about them. I’m concentrating on raising my son, Kiion, and being a role model to my brothers and sisters so they understand the proper values in life.”

Donald is now focusing his post-NFL life on his family and spreading awareness of kidney disease.

“Most people don’t understand how important their kidneys are,” he said. “But once your kidneys go, all your other organs start to follow. You only get one body, and you have to do what you can to take care of it.”

While Jones is taking a break before starting his next career, he has begun writing a book about his experiences and plans on touring to spread the message to those at risk and those who have kidney disease.

“I want to let anyone who has a kidney issue know that, first and foremost, they should listen to their doctors,” he said. “Once you understand this disease, and get informed, you can make the lifestyle changes that will make the difference in managing your disease.”