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Growing up, 56-year-old Harvey’s mother had multiple sclerosis and his uncle lived in a wheelchair for 50 years—but neither of them ever complained. So Harvey felt prepared to live life in a way that teaches his family and others to “play the cards you have been dealt.” And that’s exactly what he’s doing.
Harvey’s kidneys began to fail right after high school. “I tried to enlist in the Navy and the labs showed protein in my urine,” remembers Harvey. “This was in the ‘60s and there wasn’t much to do about it. I felt healthy and didn’t have any outward problems.”
In 1994, Harvey went for a routine checkup and his blood pressure was “through the roof.” A kidney biopsy was ordered and it showed that Harvey had FSGS. “I was told I’d be on dialysis within 6 months,” says Harvey, “but by losing weight and eating healthier, I was able to hold off for 2 years.”
Harvey started peritoneal dialysis in January of 1998 until June of 1998, when his wife Peggy donated her kidney to him. “We truly are partners in life—we really know what ‘in sickness and in health’ means!”
During the time of the transplant, Harvey had to quit his job in car-rental sales due to the heavy travel requirements. He decided to go back to school since he had the time and had always wanted to do it; in 2 years he became a computer programmer. “I worked full-time for a major department store for 6 years and loved it,” reports Harvey. “Unfortunately, my transplant failed after 8 years and I went on in-center hemodialysis. It became difficult to maintain a full-time job.”
Harvey wasn’t feeling well on in-center hemodialysis. “I was ready to ask the doctor to put me back on PD—I never felt that way on PD,” says Harvey. It was then that he learned about NxStage from a cousin’s wife, and did some research at a center in his area. “My center wasn’t offering home dialysis yet and the thought of cannulation sent me into a hole hiding,” explains Harvey. “But I talked to my wife and she agreed to be my tech.”
In January of 2007, Harvey’s center began offering home hemodialysis. He started NxStage training in April of 2007, did his first home dialysis treatment in May of 2007, and was off to Florida for 2 months in June. “I really wanted to test that whole flexibility point of home dialysis,” laughs Harvey. “I tell people I started home dialysis and I haven’t been home since!”
Monday through Saturday, Harvey starts his dialysis in the afternoon when his wife comes home from work, and runs 2.5 to 3 hours. “If my wife and I want to go out for dinner, I’ll usually start before she gets home—I’ve really learned how to do it all myself, and just need my wife for another set of hands,” relays Harvey. “It’s really liberating doing home dialysis. I’m a firm believer in taking care of your own health, because no one will take care of you like you.”
For Harvey, the freedom and flexibility of home dialysis has been great, but that’s not the best part. “What I really love about home dialysis is that I feel better—on a daily basis, the benefit is health and more energy,” he explains. “There is nothing I dislike about home hemodialysis, especially when compared to in-center dialysis.” Harvey is doing so well, he’s been able to come off of all of his previous medications, and only takes phosphate binders.
Harvey finds there are other advantages of home hemodialysis, too. “You can spend more time with family, you can read to your children and grandchildren while you’re on the machine, and as a spouse, you have a forced listener for 2+ hours!”
In 2007, Harvey decided to take his two grandsons, ages 10 and 11, on a motorhome road trip that would take over 2 weeks and span 3,500 miles. “I wanted to show them how big and wonderful this country is,” shares Harvey. “It was the best vacation of my life.”
The road trip was so great, Harvey decided it would be a perfect way to spread the word about home hemodialysis. So, this year, he and his wife traveled via motorhome for 51 days, spanning 12,500 miles, and visited 22 dialysis centers along the way. “I want to raise awareness about home hemodialysis,” says Harvey. “I cherish each moment of the trip and hopefully helped some people—their cry is always the same: they just want their lives back. With home hemodialysis, they can really do that.”
When he’s not traveling, Harvey works contract jobs for his previous employer in 6-month increments. “Disability will not cover me if I go to work for more than 6 months at a time,” he explains. “If I knew how great I’d feel on home hemodialysis, I would have stuck it out with my full-time job.”
Harvey is living life on home hemodialysis to the fullest and hopes others will embrace it, too. “I think home hemodialysis is the best thing since sliced bread,” says Harvey. “My feeling is that in-center staff need to relay home options. If you tell people right from the start about home hemodialysis and start them at home, they will probably stay there. Home hemodialysis is not an experimental treatment, it’s a better treatment.”
Harvey received a transplant in Spring 2011.
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