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...everything you need to know about doing dialysis at home.
In 2004, Eileen’s husband Tom got a cold. A really bad cold. And, even though Tom was a strong, vibrant 60-year old, he just couldn’t shake the virus. “He didn’t get better because the virus attacked his kidneys,” Eileen recalled. At first Tom’s doctor thought that there wasn’t much damage, but Tom got worse and was diagnosed with kidney failure a few months later.
Because Tom needed treatment right away, he started dialysis without much preparation. He had a catheter put in for his access and began going to a dialysis clinic three times a week for treatments. “He never did well at the clinic,” Eileen said. “Before he got sick, he was always slim, but he got heavy because he had too much fluid on. They were always sending him to the hospital to have extra fluid pulled off,” she said.
The search for better treatment and a better life lead Tom and Eileen to Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia. They put Tom on the transplant list. The average wait for a deceased donor transplant in the United States is 5 years, but Tom got lucky. In just a few months, he got the call that a “perfect match” kidney was waiting for him. Tom had spent 17 months doing in-center hemodialysis. He was transplanted in 2005.
Tom felt great with his transplant, but it didn’t last long: just 8 months. Eileen thinks the combination of anti-rejection drugs was too much for Tom and the transplant.
Eileen and Tom were desperate. He had felt so bad on dialysis, he didn’t want to go back! Then, a nephrologist at Hahnemann Hospital told them about home hemodialysis and referred them to Franklin DaVita at Home in Philadelphia. They went to learn more and liked what they heard.
They decided to give it a try. They spent a month training to do home hemodialysis. During that time, Tom also had surgery to create a fistula for better access. “Everyone at the clinic was wonderful,” said Eileen, “it was a great experience. And, I got really interested in this whole new way to do dialysis.”
“Going home was nerve-wracking at first,” Eileen admitted, “but everything went well and Tom did so much better.” According to Eileen, Tom had his color, his appetite, his energy and his attitude back within 10 days of starting the short daily dialysis routine. “It was unbelievable!” she commented.
Tom himself reported feeling “90–95% well,” a big change from his in-center experience.
Eileen learned how to use the buttonhole technique to place Tom’s needles. “We never had an infection of the access, any bleeding problems, or ER visits,” Eileen added. “Tom felt good again and we were able to walk, go out to eat, go on vacation—live a normal life.”
Now, Eileen is working hard to tell others with kidney failure about the benefits of short daily home hemodialysis. “It’s almost miraculous,” she said. ” You just can’t believe it until you do it yourself. It gave Tom and me two and a half years of a wonderful life before he succumbed to cancer.”
In 2008, Tom had a recurrence of colon cancer. Eileen could see that he was getting weaker and jaundiced from the effects of the disease. Together they decided to stop dialysis. Within 14 days, Tom passed away. “He was a religious man,” Eileen recalled, “and he was ready to go to heaven.”
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