Until a year and a half ago, I never knew much about kidney disease. I always thought that if I would become chronically ill, it would be from heart disease or cancer or a more common ailment; not a kidney problem.
Most people who know me, know that I was hit with kidney failure in March 2012. I was told I'd be on dialysis the rest of my life. Until that time, I didn't have a clue what dialysis was; that it meant four hours a day, three times a week, sitting in a chair having your blood drained from you and put in a machine for purification.
There's more people on dialysis than you might realize.
I met people at the dialysis center who had been doing this for years - some more than a decade. I talked with people who had transplants that failed.
Incidentally, the medical professionals who said I'd be on dialysis the rest of my life were wrong. Fortunately I was able to come off it recently. Hopefully my kidneys will keep functioning enough that I never have to visit a dialysis center again.
For some people, dialysis is very painful. I was fortunate enough that I got away without having a fistula inserted in my arm. At one point, I was on peritoneal dialysis, in which I could do the dialysis at home, four times a day, through a tube in my stomach wall.
There are other home dialysis methods, but not everybody is able to do it.
Dialysis makes you tired. I believe it makes you moody. At times, it even makes you feel like giving up. At some point, there are kidney patients who do say "enough" and opt to end the dialysis, then soon die. I personally met such people.
In all honesty, there are people so much worse off than me. I'm hoping not to sound sorry for myself, because I consider myself very fortunate.
I met one woman who had both legs amputated. She had a heart condition. She had breathing problems. And, she was on dialysis. Yet at the dialysis center, you never heard her complain. She always had a smile and a compliment. She lived for her grandchildren. She's looking forward to one grandchild's wedding. She plans on being in attendance.
Another woman lost both her kidneys to cancer. Yet, she was always at dialysis, showing an unbelievable desire to keep living. She joyfully chatted with whoever sat near her. What kept her going? It was family; a husband she adored, children, and especially her grandchildren.
Dialysis is tough, but so are other illnesses.
One thing about dialysis is I hope science finds better treatment methods someday soon.
Most elderly folks have to resort to fistulas or grafts for efficient removal and replacement of blood.
It's not a pleasant form of treatment. It can be painful. Sometimes the fistulas or grafts don't work properly and have to be redone.
Dialysis, itself, is an in-exact method. Draining too much liquid from the body results in extremely painful cramping.
For kidney patients, it's their ticket to living, though. That's in addition to a rigid diet.
Whether it's kidney disease or any other ailment, nothing is as successful in the long-range treatment than family support. Thankfully it's something I was blessed with.
On days I was cranky from dialysis, family members tolerated me.
I always had volunteers offering to drive me to appointments.
When I was hospitalized, I had family members at my bedside every day. My wife, my daughter, my stepdaughter, and my grandchildren spent long hours with me.
Of the above dialysis patients I mentioned, it's obvious why they treasure their grandchildren so much.
I remember one time when I was in the hospital for over a week, my wife brought my grandsons to see me.
The doctor came in the room. I asked if I could go home, yet.
"No," he said. "We need you stay a little longer."
My grandson Spencer was just 4 years old at the time. He was shy, like most 4-year-olds.
Yet, he looked up at my doctor and said, "It's okay. You can send him home. I'll take good care of him."
Grandkids certainly do give you the desire to keep fighting.