In honor of Dustin Cuzick, 11 News is helping to raise awareness this National Kidney Month

KKTV 11 News reporter Dustin Cuzick
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - For the month of March, orange is KKTV's favorite color.

It's not because it's almost spring or because our staff looks so fetching in it! Orange is the signature color for kidney disease, something that is near to our hearts at this station.

More than 37 million American adults are battling chronic kidney disease right now, and a whopping one-third of all Americans are at risk. It's the ninth-leading cause of death in the United States, killing more people than breast cancer or prostate cancer. It can strike at any age, and it can claim people in the prime of their lives. As long-time 11 News viewers know, these stats hit extremely close to home for KKTV employees. Kidney failure took one of our own last year.

Dustin Cuzick was just 36 years old when he lost his battle with end-stage kidney disease last July. Charismatic, sharp and wickedly funny, Cuzick was young with his life ahead of him when his kidneys began to fail in his early 30s. As the disease progressed, his time became divided between work and dialysis.

"It's kind of life-consuming," he told anchor Rebekah Hoeger in an interview last April to bring attention to organ donation. "That's all I've really known the last two years is dialysis and work. Work has been a nice escape."

Cuzick's final months defined the word bravery. He never lost his sense of humor, he maintained his glass-half-full outlook, and he remained fiercely independent to the very end. Just four days before he slipped into a coma, he was still working, putting the finishing touches on an 11 Call For Action story.

March is National Kidney Month and March 12 is World Kidney Day. In honor of our dear friend, 11 News wants to use our role in media to help raise awareness in the public on kidney disease. It's so prevalent, and yet many people know little about it. The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) says a large percentage of people at risk for the disease may not even know it, which is why on this March 12, the foundation is kicking off a new campaign: "Are You the 33 Percent?"

According to the NKF, people with one or more of the following five risk factors are among that 33 percent of Americans at risk of kidney disease:

- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Diabetes (Cuzick was diagnosed with type one diabetes as a child, and complication from diabetes is what eventually led to kidney failure)
- Obesity
- Family history of kidney disease (This is important to stay aware of, as there are many people who are otherwise healthy but may have a grandparent, great-uncle, cousin who has battled the disease.)

The NKF has a quiz you can take here.

So this National Kidney Month, we ask all of our viewers to take a moment to assess their risk and/or take any necessary action if you think something isn't physically right. We watched the disease take its toll on our friend in just a few short years. We know his hope for others would be that they would not have to fight as much as he did.

Resources on kidney disease and more information about the National Kidney Foundation can be found here.