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Unfiltered Story: Anthony Tuggle

April 24, 2024, 8:18am EDT

Anthony Tuggle smiling

Unfiltered Story follows the journey of one person over time whose life was impacted by kidney disease. In this edition, we follow Anthony Tuggle as he readjusts to life on dialysis while searching for a living kidney donor.

Twenty-five years ago, Anthony Tuggle went to the doctor with flu-like symptoms. He expected to be prescribed medication and sent home. The reality was far more severe–he was in kidney failure. 

Crashing into Dialysis

The doctor was shocked that Anthony had driven himself to his office and was able to walk. 

"They sent me to the hospital," Anthony said. "Before I knew it, I was in surgery getting a catheter for emergency dialysis." 

While Anthony had some knowledge about the kidneys, he didn't know much about kidney failure. The reality set in once he started attending in-center hemodialysis. 

"I went to dialysis three days a week for three to four hours each session. It was exhausting and disheartening. I was in my late 20s. I wanted to live my life, not deal with kidney failure," said Anthony. "My first step was praying to God for help during this difficult time."

The next step was educating himself. 

"Through my nephrologist and research on kidney.org, I learned hypertension, or high blood pressure, had damaged my kidneys," Anthony said. "I was diagnosed with high blood pressure in my late teens. My doctor did not tell me it could cause kidney damage or kidney failure."

Had Anthony's healthcare team explained the seriousness of the condition, he may have made lifestyle changes like eating less sodium and taking blood pressure medication to protect his kidneys. 

"I had no idea about the connection between high blood pressure and kidney failure," Anthony said. "Now I'm informed and have a passion for raising awareness. I can use my experience to help other people avoid kidney disease." 

With help from his faith, family, and friends, Anthony developed a positive mindset about his health. Instead of letting dialysis get him down, he listened to his doctor, attended all his treatments, and adjusted his diet and lifestyle. 

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Getting a Transplant

Anthony quickly determined a transplant would be his best treatment option and began the waitlist evaluation. 

"It involved a lot of testing but I was found fit for transplantation," Anthony said. "On my birthday, May 5th, 1999 at two in the morning, I got the call that changed my life. A deceased donor kidney was available at my transplant center in Atlanta."

There was only one problem. Anthony was in Kansas City. 

"I jumped on the plane. By late afternoon I had my new kidney," Anthony said. "I only had to spend fifteen months on dialysis. I felt so blessed and happy. I felt I got a second chance to educate people about kidney disease and kidney transplantation." 

Are you looking for kidney disease education? Take NKF's free course, 'Chronic Kidney Disease Basics,' to learn about kidney disease, how it is measured, and what happens if your kidneys fail.

Becoming a kidney advocate

Anthony took this divine call to action seriously. 

"My purpose is changing people's lives. I did that by educating people I met about kidney disease and explaining how to prevent it," Anthony said. "It was easy to talk about how conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure could damage your kidneys. It was harder to talk about my kidney failure experience and having a transplant."

Few knew what Anthony had gone through besides his family and close friends. For twenty years, Anthony kept it that way.

"I maintained my kidney transplant by being very rigid about my health. I worked out and ate well. I went to every appointment, took my medications, and learned how to read my lab reports," Anthony said. "I led the conversations with my nephrologist. Being your own patient advocate is crucial."

Five years ago, Anthony recognized he could do more good by opening up.

"I was more comfortable sharing my story, so I decided to do more. I became a National Kidney Foundation Board Member serving Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Through my work, I raised over $200,000 for NKF," said Anthony. "I chaired Atlanta's Kidney Walk from 2018 to 2020, helping raise more than half a million dollars. I had the honor of becoming NKF's Chairman in 2021."

In 2024, Anthony’s life took a turn. His kidney function began to decline.

Was he able to save the transplant? Check back soon for Unfiltered Story: Anthony Tuggle Part 2 to learn what happens next. 

Want to make a difference like Anthony? Here are all the ways you can get involved with NKF.

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