My kidneys can no longer clean the toxins from my blood. I now rely on a machine to do the work my kidneys no longer can. Thanks to research that began around the time of World War II, there is a treatment called Dialysis. It has saved my life, and the lives of countless others.
After my stay in the hospital and my emergency hemodialysis treatments, I went home with a catheter in my chest and chose to have my dialysis done at a clinic near my home. My clinic was DaVita, which specializes in dialysis an is found world wide. My treatment was three times a week for 3 ½ hours per treatment.
When you’re considering dialysis, there are several options. One option offered to me was peritoneal dialysis, which is done at home. Peritoneal dialysis (PD) removes waste and toxins, but it is done within the body. A big benefit of PD is getting to stay home. You can have your treatment whenever you want, and because it’is done more frequently, there are fewer dietary restrictions.
The downside of PD, for me, was you had to learn how to operate the dialysis machine. I was already overwhelmed by having to relearn how to eat. A three-month supply of materials in the home was required, which would require a lot of storage space. I have a fourteen-year old son and I didn’t want to turn our home into the dialysis ward. I wanted our home to be as normal as possible.
PD seemed daunting to me. Had I more time to prepare, I might have chosen PD, but my exposure to Chronic Kidney disease took place while I was hospitalized, over a two week period. I was still in shock that I even had CKD.
I chose hemodialysis and went to Davita clinic for my treatment.
Besides saying “no” to PD, the other thing I said “no” to was getting a fistula. A fistula is considered the “gold standard” of access.
I didn’t want a fistula was because I already had a port in my chest that was easy to access. I was also fortunate enough to have two siblings were willing to donate their kidney. My blood type was an easy match and I was certain I would find a donor. I wasn’t planning on being on dialysis for that long.
When I told the doctor I decided not to have the fistula procedure he said, “Why is that?”
“Because I’m going to have a transplant.”
He tried not to laugh, “Well, that could take years.”
I was determined to focus on getting as healthy as possible for that great day I would be given the “OK” to have a transplant.
If I thought I was going be on dialysis for awhile, I would definitely go with a fistula. It’s the safest option to keep your access free from infection, it allows the technicians easy access, and you can get your fistula wet. Freedom to get your fistula wet is a pretty big deal. You can shower and swim. Believe me, not being able to shower gets pretty old.
I took good care of my catheter. Having bacterial growth which could lead to infection is the fear of the medical community. The catheter must be cleaned and the dressing changed every night and especially after exercise with alcohol and sterilizes pads. You are not allowed to take a shower or get the catheter wet, so I washed my hair in the kitchen sink and took a shallow bath. Staying clean was a bit of a challenge. I rediscovered baby-wipes and learned how to dry brush.
I was very happy with my choice of going to a clinic. It was a hand holding experience, which was what I needed. The social aspect was very important to me. It’s not an exaggeration to say I was a little freaked out by this whole experience. If something was worrying me, there was someone to talk to. There were other patients just like me that were on dialysis but still living their lives. I needed to see other people in the same boat and realize it was possible to go on.
Davita has a kind and professional staff. They are located all over the world and have a travel specialist to assist you in scheduling appointments when you travel. There is an on-site nutritionist. They do blood work every month and the nutritionist will review how you’re doing with your potassium and phosphate levels. She will even offer up a few recipes to get you back on track if you need it.
There is also the option of purchasing your medications from the clinic. DaVita offers a special price point. At the drugstore my monthly Fosrenal was thirty dollars; from DaVita it was five dollars. Also, getting your prescriptions filled couldn’t be easier. Each month the nurse brought me a bag of my medications. Done.
I won’t lie; the first couple of months on dialysis were tough. The biggest issue for me was the extreme fatigue I experienced after a session. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I could make it from the car to the house. A few times I went to dialysis in my pajamas and robe because I didn’t want to come home and change my clothes.
Gradually, my body got used to the treatments. It was a great day when I could actually drive myself to and from dialysis and then walk the dog when I got home.
My dialysis treatment lasted over twelve hours a week. It worked out best for me to go to the latest shift, which was 2:00 in the afternoon. I’m a naturally early riser and could almost have a full day in before my dialysis treatment.
Permission to Relax
I had big plans during those twelve hours, like finishing all those books I hadn’t finished, or perhaps learning another language. The list was endless. I did read a bit, but mostly, I slept. I slept and watched all the seasons of PLL and Downton Abbey. Midwesterner that I am, I felt bad that I wasn’t being more productive during my 3 1/2 hour treatment. My nurse told me, “Dialysis is a treatment not a spa. You’re having toxins cleaned from your blood. It’s taxing. Your body is working very hard right now, so just relax.”
Permission to relax. Yes please.
Of course there were times when I was in the middle of something and “Ugh! I have to go to dialysis!” I confess a couple of times I called in sick. Those “sick” days were not good days. Usually I ended up feeling lethargic and knew it was because the toxins were building up in by blood, which was gross to think about. Skipping out on your dialysis treatment is definitely not worth it.
The worst thing I can say about dialysis is that when I first started, I was extremely tired and honestly didn’t know how I was going to carry on. I had a couple of scares where my blood pressure dropped too low and I felt nauseous and dizzy. These things happened during my introduction to dialysis while my body was adjusting to treatment. Gradually these side effects subsided.
The best thing I can say about dialysis is that it saved my life. The big surprise for me was that it wasn’t that bad. Everyone always asks if it hurts, and no, it doesn’t hurt at all. I also enjoyed the people I met, professionals and patients alike. So a big thumbs up for me on dialysis.
This is the lowdown on my experience with dialysis and I hope it will encourage you. I’d love to here about your own dialysis journey.
For additional reading, Davita is an excellent website full of valuable information.
You can find it at: https://www.davita.com
For information about PD go here:
This is a great article about HD:
You can read about a fistula here: