Years of dialysis didn't keep hip-hop artist David Rush down, New Brunswick, New Jersey
BY SUZANNE C. RUSSELL • STAFF WRITER | My Central New Jersey.com
NEW BRUNSWICK — Hip-hop artist David Rush's kidneys had completely stopped working.
They were not clearing toxic products and fluids from his blood. He wasn't producing urine.
Rush had end-stage renal disease, said Dr. Adena Osband, a kidney transplant surgeon at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey - Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick. When that happens, the patient can be treated with dialysis — or get a new kidney through transplantation.
For nearly four years, Rush had been on dialysis six days a week at home, using a portable dialysis machine rather than visiting a dialysis center three days a week. He was diagnosed at age 25 with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a type of kidney disease that can affect both children and adults.
Initially treated with medication, he went on dialysis when his kidneys failed. The process involves using needles to help remove his blood through tubes, filtering the blood through a machine to remove toxins and waste and then returning the filtered blood to his body.
"Just putting the needles in and out is painful. You feel the blood coming in and out," said Rush, who was born David Petterson and whose professional hip-hop name is derived from the rush of blood during his dialysis treatments.
To get his mind off the four-hour treatment, Rush would do other things like work on his recordings or the computer.
Because his hip-hop career involves performances across the country, Rush traveled with his portable dialysis machine in an eight-seat passenger van and tour bus. He traveled to 30 cities — from California to New York.
"It was the first thing we unpacked; the first thing set up. That was his lifeline, nothing else mattered," Rush's manager, Jerome Anderson, said. "For him it was rough but he didn't want to let us down from the music standpoint."
Rush thought of ending his performance career to manage others, Anderson said.
"His mother told him to stop acting up and get back into the groove. That's when he wrote some of his best music," Anderson said.
Rush received a standing ovation for a song called "Forget Me Not" that he performed at a benefit concert four days before his transplant surgery earlier this month.
"Everybody was in tears," his mother, Cindia Haskins said.
Daily dialysis with the portable machine lessens the ups and downs of treatment, said Osband, his doctor, but it's not the same as getting a working kidney. The annual mortality rate for those on dialysis is 18 percent.
Now that Rush has been given a kidney by his half-brother, Dwaine Haskins, he will take a number of medications and have follow-up visits for the first three months after the transplant, his doctor said.
"He has to avoid infection," Osband said.
Rush has to take multiple pills each days, including anti-rejection, anti-fungal and anti-viral medications. He will take anti-rejection medication for the rest of his life.
"I don't mind. Anything is better than four hours of (dialysis) treatment," he said.
"We have a rigorous follow up," Osband said.
Rush is visiting the hospital twice a week for the first month, once a week for the second month and then once every other week for the third month, Osband said.
He will continue to have follow up visits at six months, one year and two years.
Rush also will have follow up visits with his nephrologist, a kidney specialist.
Haskins also sees the doctor once a week. He's been instructed not to lift anything heavy, to avoid getting a hernia.
"I have to take it easy," he said.
Haskins suffered a slight set back a week after surgery when a blood clot was detected in his lung and leg and he was admitted to Hackensack University Medical Center and put on blood thinners. He was released last Sunday but remains on blood-thinning medication.
Making donations cool
"It doesn't matter how good our team is, none of this can happen without people like Dwaine," Osband said of the kidney donor.
"We can always use more live donors in the African-American community where (donors are) less common," Osband said. "If they (Rush and Haskins) can make it cool, that would be incredible."
"It's a great story for the two of them. And if we can get more organ donor awareness and transplants the power of this grows and grows," Osband said.
Cindia Haskins agrees.
"Our main concern was getting the word out. We want to open up the eyes of family and friends. You've got to stay healthy," she said. "He's an artist but this story is broader. This is number one. His life is number one."
"I'm not planning on failing this kidney," he said. "It's going to be cool."