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...everything you need to know about doing dialysis at home.
Ken didn’t have to give up his lifestyle just because his kidneys failed. Armed with a portable NxStage home hemodialysis machine, 66-year-old Ken and his wife Joyce continue to travel and show their prized Samoyed dogs.
To this day, Ken is not sure what caused his kidneys to fail. In 2003, as a preventive measure following a quadruple bypass in 1998, the pharmacy doctor ordered a beta blocker for Ken since he was taking certain medicines for high blood pressure and cholesterol—neither of which he had. Ken asked his doctor for a second opinion and after a week of researching it, the doctor told Ken that “it has been determined that anyone who is taking the medicines you are taking should also be taking a beta blocker.”
“In 2004, my kidney failure started to present itself in the form of reduced flow. I talked to the doctor in 2005 and prostate medicine was prescribed,” reports Ken. “Then in October of 2005, I had a stroke 2,500 miles away from my home and the beta blocker was doubled by the hospital I went to. My systolic blood pressure rose to well over 180 and by June of 2006 I had gained over 65 pounds of water weight until I was weeping from the legs.”
In January of 2006 it was determined by a deep ultrasound and a series of biopsies that Ken was indeed in the early stages of kidney failure. “The results could not be classified since the experts had never seen such total destruction before,” says Ken. “My doctor immediately took me off the beta blocker in hopes that I was allergic to the medicine. My creatinine level started to improve and I left the area until June. When I returned, it was notice that my creatinine level had gone from 2 to 6 in that period of time.”
Doctors tried to reverse the damage and were able to get Ken’s creatinine level down to less than 3 by the end of 2006. Ken recalls, “The doctor said it would be okay for my wife and I to take a trip outside of the country.” So, in December of 2006, Ken and Joyce took a 3-week vacation to Tahiti. Following the trip, Ken went for his monthly blood test. “My creatinine went from less than 3 to 9,” reports Ken. “My physician called and said to get to the hospital immediately.” Ken had 3 days of dialysis in the hospital and was discharged to continue dialysis in a center.
In his fifth month of in-center hemodialysis, Ken’s arm was being mapped for a fistula. “The technician started talking to us and we mentioned that we traveled a lot before I started dialysis to show our dogs,” says Ken. “The technician said, ‘You know, I will probably lose my job if they find out, but I will give you some information and a phone number to call’—that’s how I found out that home hemodialysis existed.”
Ken contacted Jerry—an area manager with DaVita—right away. “Two months later we were training on the NxStage machine,” recalls Ken. “Since I was an electrical engineer, I understood the machine pretty well—they kicked us out in 4 weeks!”
Getting established the first week on home hemodialysis was tough for Ken, but after that he’s had no problems. “There is no comparison, none whatsoever, between the two types of hemodialysis,” relays Ken. “On in-center I had to be there at 6 a.m. for over 5 hours and then I was wiped out for the rest of the day—it was miserable.” Ken is happy he can do home hemodialysis whenever he wants to, “It’s a 3-hour block of time, 6 days a week, that I can work into my schedule how I want.” says Ken. “I can change a day if it’s to our advantage, and that in itself is worth its weight in gold.”
Flexibility to travel is the biggest benefit for Ken and Joyce, who have equipped their RV for travel with the machine and the dogs. “We primarily travel in the RV for dog shows 2-3 weekends a month, primarily in Arizona, California, and Washington,” explains Ken. “Sometimes we drop ship supplies to where we’re going if we’re gone for a month or so, with enough supplies in the RV for travel time.”
Another benefit of home hemodialysis for Ken is greater flexibility in his diet. “The thing is, when I was in center I had to watch my diet very closely,” recalls Ken. “Now I watch it, but can basically eat anything I want and have fewer fluid limits.”
With home hemodialysis, Ken has found a way to keep his interests and lifestyle, and improve his health! “There are a lot of solutions available, you just need to find one that best suits you and your lifestyle,” explains Ken. “Home hemodialysis gave me my life back—life didn’t end with dialysis.”
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