The Paris News has an article about someone we know. Wesley is a dialysis patient who has been on the kidney transplant list for a long time. He has made several trips to Dallas expecting to come home with a new kidney but hasn’t been blessed with one yet.
We were so lucky that Dale had a sister who was willing to donate and was compatible. Living donor kidneys last longer than cadaver kidneys but if your choice is dialysis or kidney transplant, it won’t take too long on dialysis to vote for the transplant whether it is living donor or cadaver.
You can live a fairly normal life on dialysis but it keeps you alive – it does not cure you and it can’t take the place of your kidneys. There are things that your kidneys filter that dialysis can’t. People who have lost kidney function due to diabetes have to remain on a diabetic diet and now they have to add new restrictions. Phosphorus and potassium have to be watched. If you do a little research you will find that pretty much anything with flavor contains those two things.
Our bodies are a miracle of chemical balance that is regulated to a great extent, by our kidneys. Too much of one thing and a gland can kick in and leach something necessary out of your system. Too much fluid and your blood pressure rises and your heart can become damaged. Kidney function can be lost due to heart disease (or it’s treatment – the dye used in heart cath is toxic to kidneys), diabetes, high blood pressure, and many other reasons. Many medications are toxic. Aleve is an over the counter drug that is hard on kidneys. Most medicines (including over the counter drugs) are hard on either your kidneys or your liver. In Dale’s case there was a problem from birth that eventually caused failure of his one functioning kidney. He took Aleve for years with his doctors blessing because it helped his knees. Now we wonder if it didn’t hasten kidney failure. If you are at risk or know that you have diminished function – do a little research about the medicines you take so that you can make an informed choice or at discuss alternatives with your doctor.
Dialysis isn’t painful but it isn’t comfortable either. When Dale was going to the center there were about 25 chairs and some patients came in under their own steam while others were brought in from nursing homes on a stretcher. Some people were able to socialize, some would moan and cry and seemed altered the whole time. Several people would be missing legs from diabetes and several were blind. Each chair has a television so once a patient is “hooked” up they can watch tv. The process takes three to four hours between the time it takes to get the patient hooked up to the machine which cycles their blood through a filter gradually, and may add things like iron, and then the time it takes for them to be taken off the machine and their access to stop bleeding.
If a patient has consumed too much fluid between treatments they come in “wet” and more fluid needs to be pulled off. Each patient weighs when they come in and before they leave. Too much fluid (or potassium or phosphorus) and a patient may experience painful leg cramps. Too little fluid and too much treatment and they can be pulled too “dry” and when that happened to Dale, his blood pressure would drop. We learned that at 50/40 he goes unconscious.
If a patient is planning to travel they need to make arrangements with a dialysis center near their destination to receive treatment while they are there.
A dialysis patient has to have surgery that creates an access – usually in their arm. Some, like Dale have an access created by their own blood vessels being tied together in a way that allows blood to be removed and returned. Others have a special kind of tubing implanted. A dialysis patient becomes very protective of their access and if the techs at a center are contract help rather than regulars, you can’t always be certain that you will get someone who is good at “sticking” an access and an access even when well taken care of only lasts for so long. The surgery and healing, and maturing of the access takes some time and isn’t exactly fun so it’s important to take care of it.
Dialysis has a two-fold purpose – removing fluid and removing toxins from your system. Without it you go into congestive heart failure from the fluid and the toxins can cause multiple problems. You will eventually die – that is a given.
When you drive by the Fresenius Dialysis center on Collegiate and Lamar this month, give a thought for the people who are inside tethered to a chair and to their lives by tubes and machines that keep them alive, three to four hours a treatment, three treatments a week, for the rest of their lives or until a kidney becomes available if they are a candidate for transplant. Give a thought for the caregivers who bring them for treatment, often a spouse who may have driven for an hour to get here and is sitting in the waiting room for several hours each treatment day.
The numbers of people with diabetes is growing in this country and so too, are the number of people who rely on dialysis to live. This month educate yourself and say a prayer for Wes – that he gets a kidney.
Despite ongoing health problems since 1993, if asked how he’s doing, Williams answers, “I can’t complain.”
While undergoing a dialysis treatment at Fresenius Medical Care, 110 S. Collegiate St. on Wednesday, Williams talked about his will to live and his mission to help others.
“I have got too much yet to do in my short life,” Williams said. “I believe the Lord has things yet for me to do.”
The Fresenius Medical Care Center in Paris serves more than 100 patients daily. The center also offers free seminars to inform at-risk patients and their families about chronic kidney disease and treatment. Anyone interested in attending should contact Misty Curtis at 903-784-1989.
Call. Go visit. Take some magazines or paperbacks for patients and caregivers. Say a prayer. Anyone can do that.