Update on Lamar Odom

What a difference a day or two can make!

Just a couple of days ago, former NBA player Lamar Odom was in a coma, after taking a potentially life-threatening combinations of drugs. Estranged wife, Khloe Kardashian and her family have been by his bedside ever since.

Amazingly, Odom woke up on Friday. And although this is a dramatic outcome, Odom is still far from being “out of the woods.”

According to E-Online, since Odom emerged from the coma, he has:

—Spoken briefly to Khloé Kardashian, saying, “Hey baby” and “Good morning”

—Begun to communicate using hand signals

—Been able to breathe on his own, without a ventilator. He is also using a non rebreather mask that is pumping oxygen and doctors recently decreased the amount needed. The next step is to wean him off it entirely, which depends on how strong his body is

—Passed a swallow test, a promising sign of neurological function

—Left his hospital bed: He was moved, with assistance into a chair

Due to kidney failure, Odom remains on dialysis and doctors are still running tests to determine the extent of possible brain damage or other long-term effects from his overdose.

What do the Kidneys do?

The kidneys are a pair of vital organs that perform many functions to keep the blood clean and chemically balanced. They also help control blood pressure and make hormones that your body needs to stay healthy. They are bean-shaped, fist-sized organs located near the middle of the back, on either side of the spine just below the rib cage.

The kidneys are sophisticated reprocessing machines. Every day, a person’s kidneys process about 200 quarts of blood to filter out about 2 quarts of waste products and extra water. The wastes and extra water become urine, which flows to the bladder through tubes called ureters. The bladder stores urine until releasing it through urination.



The actual removal of wastes occurs in tiny units inside the kidneys called nephrons. Each kidney has about a million nephrons.

In the nephron, a glomerulus—which is a tiny blood vessel, or capillary—intertwines with a tiny urine-collecting tube called a tubule.

The glomerulus acts as a filtering unit- it keeps normal proteins and cells in the bloodstream, but allows extra fluid and wastes to pass through.

A complicated chemical exchange takes place, as waste materials and water leave the blood and enter the urinary system.  At first, the tubules receive a combination of waste materials and chemicals the body can still use. The kidneys measure out chemicals like sodium, phosphorus, and potassium and release them back to the blood to return to the body. In this way, the kidneys regulate the body’s level of these substances. The right balance is necessary for life.

What is Kidney Failure?

If the kidneys are damaged, they don’t work properly. Harmful wastes can build up in your body. Your blood pressure may rise. Your body may retain excess fluid and not make enough red blood cells. This is called kidney failure.

Kidney disease is most often caused by diabetes or high blood pressure. These diseases damage the blood vessels in the kidneys, so the kidneys are not able to filter the blood as well as they used to. Usually this damage happens slowly, over many years. As more and more blood vessels are damaged, the kidneys eventually stop working.

Other risk factors for kidney disease are cardiovascular (heart) disease and a family history of kidney failure.

Kidney failure can also occur on an acute basis- if there is a sudden period of inadequate blood flow to the kidneys. Decreased blood flow due to very low blood pressure can result from burns, dehydration, hemorrhage, injury, septic shock, serious illness, or surgery.

What are the Symptoms of Kidney Failure?

People in the early stages of CKD usually do not feel sick at all.
People whose kidney disease has gotten worse may:

  • need to urinate more often or less often
  • feel tired
  • lose their appetite or experience nausea and vomiting
  • have swelling in their hands or feet
  • feel itchy or numb
  • get drowsy or have trouble concentrating
  • have darkened skin
  • have muscle cramps

If your kidneys fail completely, a kidney transplant or dialysis can replace the work your kidneys normally do.


Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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