Mental health can be affected by kidney condition: renal failure blamed for pastor’s arrest

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Neither the church nor the Varney family has publicly stated what the pastor’s diagnosis is or the treatment involved, other than to simply say 61-year-old Pastor Greg Varney is suffering from kidney failure. It’s not clear if that is a result of another medical condition, although the news release from his church, Light of the World Christian Center, alludes to that. The church notes that their pastor has had “health concerns resulting in kidney failure”. They write that he has been undergoing dialysis. The release goes on to explain that Pastor Greg’s medical condition “is directly responsible for the actions leading to these charges”. Kidney failure can affect the brain, leading to personality and behavior changes according to the Merck Manual, a longtime medical publication.

Varney was arrested Wednesday for aggravated assault and remained in the Shawnee County jail Friday afternoon on a $10,000 bond. A Shawnee County Sheriff’s report detailed that Varney allegedly used a vehicle in the assault against his daughter. The church news release stressed that the family wished to make it clear that no one was hurt in the incident for which Greg Varney was arrested. In fact, they write that not only did he not harm someone, they claim he did not intend to harm anyone. Varney has been on leave from his work at the church to seek treatment.

A 2008 National Institutes of Health article entitled “Psychiatric Issues in Renal Failure and Dialysis” lists despression, anxiety, suicide, and delirium as common complications in patients with renal (kidney) failure. The author writes that kidney patients often have other medical conditions for which they take various medications. Those medications can also potentially cause psychiatric symptoms such as agitation and confusion, even though they may be nonpsychiatric medications.

Again, KSNT News is not aware of the pastor’s exact diagnosis and current medical condition. However another serious result of treating kidney failure is referred to as ‘dialysis dementia’. It’s a “neurological syndrome that occurs in some long-term dialysis patients”…that’s “associated with aluminum intoxication (as from aluminum-containing compounds in the dialysis fluid), and is marked especially by motor and speech disturbance…progressive dementia, and seizures”. That medical definition comes from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.

The church notes that during dialysis treatment, “Pastor Greg’s family began to notice unexplained cognitive and behavioral changes”. The release states that the family believes Varney’s uncharacteristic behavior is a result of “toxins released in his body when his kidneys were not functioning.”

The article from the National Institutes of Health reveals that “renal failure patients have been noted as the biggest deniers of psychiatric illness”. According to the church statement, the Varney family has been working with Pastor Greg’s doctors to find the cause of his cognitive and behavioral changes. They ask the community to pray that a “suitable treatment” will be found for their beloved founding pastor.


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