The Body's Keepers
A Social History of Kidney Failure and Its Treatments
by Paul L. Kimmel
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Pub Date 13 Feb 2024 | Archive Date 12 Dec 2023
The kidney is an extraordinary organ – in many ways the regulator, the metronome, the keeper of the human body’s delicate equilibrium. On a given day, minute by minute, it purifies the body of toxins it encounters from diet, climate, activity, and injury. It allows us to be and to move in the world. And yet most of us know so very little about these extraordinary vessels nestled in our bodies – and indeed millions of us only really learn about them when they stop working. Nearly a million Americans every year have end stage kidney disease, about 37 million have some form of chronic kidney disease. And it is an incredibly common universe of challenge and ailment that, until relatively recently, would simply kill those afflicted with it.
Renowned nephrologist Dr. Paul Kimmel takes us on an eye-opening journey through the history of kidney disease, dialysis, and transplantation. Drawing on both his extensive research and decades of experience in the field, he explains the development of treatments, technologies, and medical practices that have advanced the care of patients with kidney disease. Kimmel illuminates the impact of medical advances on the lives of those suffering from this debilitating disease and offers a clear understanding of the challenges that remain.
The Body’s Keepers also reveals the inequities and injustices at the heart of America's healthcare system. Filled with case studies, personal histories, and first-hand accounts, the book reveals the shocking truth about the exploitation of vulnerable populations in the pursuit of profit. Kimmel examines how disparities in access to care have led to life-threatening consequences for many Americans. He also looks at the ways in which the medical industry has profited from the suffering of others, and how the path to health equity is still far from being realized. With unflinching honesty and a passionate commitment to social justice, his book is an essential read for anyone looking to understand the complexities of modern healthcare.
“An important book that not only gives readers an excellent chronological evolution of the field of kidney disease and transplantation, but is also beautifully written. Kimmel effortlessly blends meticulous medical research with vivid storytelling, making the science accessible and conveying the relevance of his topic.”—Wes Ely, M.D, author of Every Deep-Drawn Breath
“A sweeping, engrossing exploration of an unassuming organ by a nephrologist at the forefront of his field. Paul Kimmel delves gracefully into the history, science, politics, technological advances, and inequities surrounding kidney disease.”—Shilpa Ravella, M.D., author of A Silent Fire: The Story of Inflammation, Diet and Disease
“This excellent book takes a deep dive into the realities of bringing a therapy to a patient. Through a wonderful cast of characters, Kimmel also reveals how the perverse incentives of the for-profit providers as well as embedded healthcare inequalities can work against the patient, especially minorities, the elderly, and the poor. A detailed, thoughtful and thorough work by an expert who has watched dialysis and kidney transplantation evolve from their first beginnings.”—Sian E. Harding, Emeritus Professor, Imperial College London, author of The Exquisite Machine
“A superb look into the biology and sociology of kidney failure. It is both accurate and accessible, highlighting stories of patients, scientists, and physicians aligned against a global scourge. Its descriptions of patient triumphs and biomedical advances is as inspiring as its flagging of misaligned corporate incentives and social failings is saddening — but both the highs and the lows are compelling. I’d recommend this be read by every physician who cares for people with kidneys and read twice by those who care for people without them!”—Allan D. Kirk, M.D., Ph.D., transplant surgeon and editor-in-chief emeritus, American Journal of Transplantation
“The Body’s Keepers chronicles the history of the fight against kidney disease and the progress made. Kimmel discusses topics of interest to patients and nephrologists in a detailed and well-spoken manner. I highly recommend The Body’s Keepers to patients and healthcare professionals.”—Richard Knight, immediate past president, American Association of Kidney Patients
“The Body’s Keepers informs and entertains—irrespective of readers’ perspectives as health care providers, patients, friends or just curious parties. Kimmel shares his specialty’s history with a personal touch that deftly explains advances in chronic kidney disease over time. It is rare that I have trouble putting a book down—but this work is that rare exception.”—Julie R. Ingelfinger, M.D., Pediatric Nephrologist, Mass General for Children at MGB; Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 4 members
A fascinating deep dive on how our kidneys function, why they function, and the future of how we view kidney disease and treatments. As someone who has suffered from different kidney issues, this was an engrossing read that helped me better understand the function of the kidneys and how we view them in our society.