Article published in The Hope, March 2020
The views expressed in this article are not The Hopes or its sponsor Kibow® Biotech, they are those of the author. This article is not intended to be viewed as medical advice. Please check with your health care provider before starting to take any herbal supplements.
My nephrologist broached the subject of home hemodialysis and thought I’d be a good candidate for it. I’d watched the nurses working for years. These machines were complicated, and when things went wrong these professional nurses worked together to troubleshoot. Operating one of these machines on my own? Inserting my own needles? That’s not going to happen, I told my nephrologist. The last thing I needed after a long day’s work was to figure out how to clean my own blood. Why not just show up in the clinic with a professional standing by and the machine ready to go?
There are some things in life I don’t mind leaving to the experts. If I really wanted to learn the inner workings of my car, I could, but I’m actually quite happy to leave this task to my mechanic. He has proven himself trustworthy and competent, so I go along with his recommendations. And for most of my years on dialysis, this was my attitude toward treatment. The dialysis nurses know what they’re doing, so I was fine leaving my dialysis sessions in their hands.
But things were not fine. After 2 decades without my native kidneys working, cracks were starting to show. Recurrent FSGS caused me to lose my transplant, and the odds were overwhelming that FSGS would attack any new transplant. Some patients go down the road of multiple kidney transplants, but I decided to not force the situation and go through more surgery only to lose a new kidney. So until something better came along, the dialysis clinic would suffice. But would it?
My nephrologist told me of better survival rates of patients who do more frequent dialysis. Home dialysis sessions were shorter but 5 to 6 times a week rather than 3 times a week. This means that there is less time between sessions for uremic toxins to build up. To convince me he ordered that I do treatments in-center 6 days a week. I was annoyed to say the least, but I complied. Okay, for a short time I’ll agree to try it your way.
Much to my surprise I did feel better. Doing treatment 3 days a week, my energy level just wasn’t that good. During the work day I took 15 minute breaks here and there to put my feet up when fatigue took over. At home I needed to pace myself doing simple chores before feeling too tired. This became normal. But now I could feel the difference. I could work 8 hours straight without a break. I had been concerned about the extra time in clinic disrupting the rest of my life, but it seemed I actually got more done in my free time. The frequent sessions really did make me feel better. And certainly cleaner blood must help long term survival.
Doing more frequent sessions came with plenty of benefits. My fluid gains between sessions were usually around 1.0 kilogram. When I did treatment 3 times a week 2.5 kilograms was the norm and over the weekend it could be considerably more if I ate saltier food in a restaurant. With less fluid to remove, treatment was more comfortable. There were no sudden drops in blood pressure and no muscle cramps. Controlling potassium and phosphorus also came much easier with frequent dialysis. That month with 6 day a week sessions, my monthly labs looked great.
I agreed to continue to come into the center 6 times a week. Oh, no it doesn’t work that way. Medicare won’t pay for more than 3 session per week. This was just a trial run. If you want the benefits of frequent dialysis, you have to do it at home. I relented, okay I’ll give home hemodialysis a try.