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Kidney Challenge

The Kidney Challenge calls on people to speak up about kidney disease. Kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States — killing more than breast cancer or prostate cancer.  Yet it receives comparatively little attention.  The Kidney Challenge seeks to change this.

The challenge is simple: speak up about kidney disease in one concrete way.  Start a conversation. Send a tweet. Participate in a National Kidney Foundation event.  In isolation, these activities may seem small, but collectively, they can make a significant difference — and save lives.  Or, for maximum impact, you can do a bigger challenge that tests your limits.

More than 25,000 people around the globe have joined the Kidney Challenge Facebook page. The challenges have been varied and intense. Examples include: skydiving, entering marathons, setting personal records with weight lifting — and for one person entering a beauty competition. Whatever the challenge, the goal is to raise awareness of the critical need for early kidney disease screening.

Kidney Disease

Approximately 26 million Americans have kidney disease, but many don’t know it.  It’s an invisible killer.  A simple blood and urine test is all that’s needed to screen for the disease, but the lack of public discourse on the topic continues to lead to many preventable deaths.

There are many symptoms that are red flags that your kidneys are in distress. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the indicators that there may be a problem include:

  • Persistent nausea or vomiting
  • Sudden onset fatigue or muscle weakness
  • Bodily swelling and increased water retention
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Shortness of breath from daily, non-strenuous activities such as walking

Because many of these symptoms are similar to those that present themselves with other illnesses, many people don’t see them as alarming enough to seek medical treatment. But visiting your doctor if you’re having one or more of these symptoms can truly be lifesaving, especially if you have a preexisting condition that increases your risk for developing kidney disease.

Doctors use a few different tests for detecting kidney disease. The most common initial ways of testing for kidney illness are blood and urine tests, which look for indicators such as atypical levels of protein and creatine. If these initial tests come back as abnormal, your doctor may choose to order a CT scan or MRI of your abdomen, or perform a kidney biopsy to test the tissue.

It may seem scary to go in for a test to determine if you have kidney issues, but remember, the sooner it is detected, the better the odds that it can be treated and permanent, irreversible damage can be avoided.

Kidney Challenge History

In 2013, Kidney Challenge founder James Goodnow was diagnosed with kidney disease. After gaining nearly 25 pounds of water weight in a week, he was admitted to the hospital. Fortunately, he is one of the lucky ones: A kidney biopsy confirmed he had a treatable and controllable form of the disease. He was put on immunosuppressant medication, which he remained on until January 1, 2015 — the day he began his formal training for his first challenge.

In 2015, Kidney Challenge founder James Goodnow committed to speaking up for kidney disease — literally.  He started training for the International Speech contest, the largest public speaking contest in the world, even though he has never participated in a speech contest. The event has over 30,000 contestants from over 130 countries. After a seven-month competition, the winner is crowned the World Champion of Public Speaking. Each speech Goodnow gave in the contest included a kidney disease reference in an effort to draw attention to the epidemic.

Learn More or Donate

To learn more about kidney disease, how it is diagnosed, or to donate to research efforts, visit the National Kidney Foundation website at

In Goodnow’s home state of Arizona, you may also visit the website for the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona, where Goodnow is a board member, at

To participate in or follow the success of the Kidney Challenge, visit our Kidney Challenge Facebook page, or our page on the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona’s website.

Email for more information.