Kidney Quest: Avoiding Dialysis

A hemodialysis machine, used to physiologicall...
A hemodialysis machine, used to physiologically aid or replace the kidneys in renal failure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unfortunately, Alan’s kidney function deteriorated to about twelve percent–the point where dialysis is indicated. Transplant results improve if no dialysis occurs, so our five year wait shrunk to a matter of weeks.

My brother roofs. That means he spent twelve hours a day on the top of steamy roofs, hauling shingles, hammering them in and cleaning up. It was August, hot on Long Island and his busy season. If anyone knows a roofer, he knows this is not an easy job–one that is hard on a healthy body, and worse for one that is failing.

If potential donors weren’t already incubating, Alan’s nephrologist would have begun dialysis. Although hemodialysis saves lives, the procedure taxes the body. So with two of us being tested, he waited. Instead, he sent a nurse to Alan’s home. She explained how a shunt would be insertd into an artery and vein that was grafted together in his abdomen.

Peritoneal dialysis
Peritoneal dialysis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This fistula could then support the turbulent blood flow of the procedure. Then every night, while Alan slept, special solutions would be infused into his abdomen. They would stay there for a while and then be drained out. This process would keep him healthy.

He was lucky. He could do his dialysis at home. I worked with a man who used to take care of his dialysis at work until the illness sent him into retirement. Most people need to spend three to five hours in a hospital, three days a week. The process exhausts the patient along with the caregivers who must transport and often wait for the patient.

However, it would take four to six weeks for the fistula to heal, so they had to begin now.

Who would be the donor–Art or me? We clearly had a decision to make.

Have you had to have dialysis or known someone going through it? I’d love to hear your story.

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