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...everything you need to know about doing dialysis at home.
A lot can happen in just one year! In March 2005, Mary was 61 years old, happily settled with her husband in their retirement dream home in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, working part-time in a local hospital lab, and living the good life. One year later, in March 2006, she was training to do home dialysis. Here’s her story.
As a long-term diabetic, Mary knew she was at risk for several medical complications, including kidney disease, but she was careful to manage her blood sugar level, diet, and lifestyle. She got regular check-ups and her hemoglobin A1c test results were always good, so Mary was surprised when her doctor told her that her kidney function had dropped dramatically and she should prepare for dialysis. “I had no idea I had a problem,” Mary recalled, “and I was in shock.”
Mary’s daughter, a nurse living in Iowa, was surprised by the sudden change in her mother’s health, too. She suggested that Mary visit the Mayo Clinic for further tests. Mary traveled to Rochester, Minnesota, in August 2005 and checked herself in. Tests revealed a malignant tumor in her right kidney. Surgery was scheduled to remove the tumor, and most of Mary’s kidney along with it.
One good kidney usually works well enough to maintain a person’s health, but Mary’s remaining kidney was damaged. Doctors told her, once again, to prepare for dialysis.
Mary returned home from the Mayo Clinic with a mission to find a nephrologist and start planning her dialysis treatments. She began by visiting her primary care doctor for a referral, but she also started to do her own research on the Internet to learn more about kidney failure, dialysis treatment options, and what to expect.
It was during her online research that Mary learned about home dialysis. She was excited about the possibility. “I liked the idea of peritoneal dialysis,” explained Mary, “because I thought it would help me keep my life more normal.”
Unfortunately, when Mary went to see the nephrologist her doctor recommended, she was told that she would not be able to do PD. “I’ve had several surgeries,” Mary explained. “I had my tubes tied, I had my stomach stapled, and then, of course, I had the kidney tumor removed, so they said I was not a good candidate. They wanted to put in a shunt and start me on hemodialysis right away,” she noted, but Mary was determined to pursue home dialysis. “I got a second referral,” Mary reported, “and the team at Union County Dialysis in Blairsville, Georgia, told me that peritoneal dialysis would be no problem for me.”
Despite assurances, Mary was still a little worried about starting PD. “The first doctor told me it would not work. If someone tells you it is not going to work, you worry,” she commented. Still, Mary decided to go ahead with PD, and she traveled to Atlanta to have a catheter put in.
Mary began her PD training in March 2006. She trained at her dialysis center for 2 weeks using manual PD techniques. Then, she got her Baxter cycler and trained for an additional 2 days to learn how to operate the machine.
Mary was able to go home at the end of March. The transition to home went smoothly, and the set up in her house was easy. “We have a bathroom next to the master bedroom and plenty of space for storing supplies.”
Now, Mary dialyzes every night for 9 hours while she sleeps. She has her days free to do what she likes. She continues to work two 12-hour shifts at the lab every other weekend, and she has been able to travel, as well. “I had the cycler home for about a week and I packed it up to go to a wedding in Kansas City,” she recalled. She has also returned to Iowa to visit her daughter and grandchildren. “Baxter has been terrific about shipping my supplies wherever I need them,” she added.
“I never thought my life could be so normal on dialysis,” said Mary happily. She cooks and eats most of the things she likes and feels that her stamina especially at work is returning. “My PD nurse Diane Raper and I have gotten very close,” she adds. “She has been a great help to me through everything.”
Mary recommends PD to other patients who are considering home dialysis. And, she cautions them to seek a second opinion if they get resistance at first. “Find a dialysis center that offers PD treatments,” she said. “They will be more likely to be honest about whether or not it will work for you.”
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