After overcoming addiction and exiting homelessness, Leroy Ambrose takes on kidney disease with a positive outlook

Leroy Ambrose says he is healthier and happier than he’s ever been.“Having kidney failure was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he says.

While not the typical response to a chronic health condition, Leroy comes from the perspective of someone who experienced years of homelessness and survived addiction.

As one of the 850 million people globally with kidney disease, Leroy wants to help others if he can, by sharing his story with the hope that it may influence others to reach out for help.

“The people at Northwest Kidney Centers have changed my attitude about life, he says. “Without them, I wouldn’t be alive. Now I love myself and I want to help other people avoid or get out of a similar path.”

A child of alcoholic parents, Leroy began to drink and use drugs as a teen. Despite what successes he had, Leroy says he never felt like he fit in with society, and every time life dealt him a blow, he’d return to the streets and the crowd that he knew. Over the years, he spent time in jail, overdosed and attempted suicide, and experienced homelessness.

Then, about 18 months ago, Leroy was given the diagnosis of kidney disease after falling ill and being hospitalized. He wasn’t ready to hear the message, however, and quickly left the facility, refusing his first appointment with Northwest Kidney Centers.

But just six months later, Leroy woke up in the hospital with a catheter for dialysis in his chest and a diagnosis of kidney failure. A nurse told him that he hadn’t been expected to survive and that his last rites had been performed in case he didn’t wake up.

After this harrowing experience, Leroy became a regular patient at Northwest Kidney Centers. He credits the staff and care of Northwest Kidney Centers with helping him become healthier and happier than he’s ever been.

“The people caring for me were like family. They taught me how to eat better and how to exercise. They helped me find my own place to live. Now I pay rent. I pay bills,” he says with pride. “I never thought I’d be able to pay any bills.”

“We see a lot of folks who come to us very sick and aren’t able to battle their addictions at the same time as adapting to dialysis. Leroy has been a role model and a wonder,” says Beth Shanaman, a registered dietitian at Northwest Kidney Centers who works closely with Leroy and enjoys his positive outlook.

During the years he was homeless, Leroy says he was never able to save money. Since then he was able to save enough to buy his first pet, Kona, a lab and pit-bull mix, as well as the necessary food and supplies.

These days Leroy looks forward to coming in for dialysis treatments. “I may have kidney failure, but I’m healthier than I’ve ever been.”

“We are so thrilled for him,” says Shanaman.

More recently Leroy has been working with staff members at his unit to explore vocational opportunities that are available to him.

He sums up his new outlook on life like this: “There isn’t anything I can’t do if I put my mind to it.”