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Olympian Missy Franklin encourages health-centric conversations amid effort to raise kidney disease awareness

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Five-time Olympic Gold medalist Missy Franklin has reached numerous heights throughout her storied athletic career. But, the now-retired professional swimmer is now using her platform to raise awareness about a disease that hits close to home — Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease.

Franklin’s father was diagnosed with Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD). He has since undergone a successful transplant surgery. But, everyone may have not heard about the debilitating disease if someone close to them has not had it.

Through an ongoing collaboration with Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc., Franklin is doing her part to speak out on the importance of families having conversations about health history and genetic diseases.

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Missy Franklin speaks at a press conference

Missy Franklin speaks at the Speedo Rio 2016 Olympic Games Racing Suit Unveiling at SIR Stage37 on December 15, 2015 in New York City.  (Ryan Liu/FilmMagic)

ADPKD is a type of progressive polycystic kidney disease (PKD) that causes clusters of cysts, or pouches filled with fluid, to form primarily within the kidneys, according to information from the Mayo Clinic. The kidneys then enlarge, before eventually becoming non-functional. 

“I’ve been honored and so excited to be in collaboration with Otsuka to bring awareness to ADPKD. It’s a very rare genetic disease that runs on my dad’s side of the family.” Franklin told Fox News Digital. 

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In addition to her father, some other members of Franklin’s family have been diagnosed with the inherited disease.

“So out of four siblings, three out of the four have ADPKD, and we are so fortune that all three have received kidney transplants. My dad is about a year post transplant and is doing so well and I am so incredibly proud of him.” 

Missy Franklin holds Olympic gold medal

2012 SUMMER OLYMPICS — Swimming Finals — Pictured: Missy Franklin —  (Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images )

November is Family Health History Month and later this month millions of families across the US will gather to celebrate the holiday season. As families spent time together, Franklin also encourages them to have conversations family health history and discuss diseases that run in the family.

“It’s the perfect time,” Franklin said in reference to this month being dubbed as Family Health History Month. “We’re really just trying to encourage these open conversations because they may be intimidating for some people. They may be scary to talk about, but we’re just here to really encourage them and to be open with one another and to talk about your health history as a family.”

Franklin also hopes that sharing her story will help other families who are facing genetics disease diagnosis feel as though that are not alone. 

“We really just wanted to just come together to share our experience…. to help even one other family feel like they’re not alone in walking through this.”

“This is a hereditary disease, it’s passed down so my parents and I had very open dialogue between one another about taking the steps that we felt were best for us as a family moving forward so that we could all be the best prepared that we could be for our future,” Franklin noted.

Missy Franklin smiles after winning gold medal

USA’s Missy Franklin smiles after winning gold in the Women’s 100m Backstroke Final at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park, London, on the third day of the London 2012 Olympics.    (Tony Marshall/PA Images via Getty Images)

If someone is faced with an ADPKD diagnosis, early deception can greatly increase survival odds. “If you decide to go through early detection is can make a really big difference in the long run,” Franklin added.

Doctors can use imaging tests to measure a patient’s kidney volume, which will reveal the number of cysts someone may have, according to information from Otsuka America Pharmaceutical. The scans are adjusted based on an individual’s height. The tests can also provide medical experts insight how the disease has progressed.

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Being impacted by ADPKD can create a ripple effect. The person who is suffering from the disease has to contend with not only physical challenges, they oftentimes their family have to battle the mental and emotionally hurdles that comes with the disorder.

“I think any disease like this… it’s emotionally really taxing as well knowing that it’s only going to get worst and worst as time goes on,” Franklin acknowledged.

“That’s really hard to wrap your head around and the impacts that has on your mental health as well, so the support that you have for one another, for the caregivers that are going through so much trying to care for those that are impacted by diseases like APKD…. it’s really important that we work on getting through it together.”


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