In-home kidney dialysis might be right for you
In his younger days, 50-year-old Mark Smith didn’t exactly treat his body like a temple.
“Sugar. Fried foods. Sweets. Dr. Peppers. Cokes. All the bad stuff,” Smith remembers eating and drinking. “I worked in the oil field. We were taking customers out to eat all the time. You might eat fried chicken … even when I was a kid, go to grandma’s and eat bacon and fried stuff.”
Now, Smith is paying the price. He is fighting Stage 4 kidney failure.
“I have regrets about not taking better care of myself,” Smith said. “It’s like that saying, ‘If you could kind of rewind things a little bit, there’s a lot of things you wouldn’t change, but you would damn sure change your eating habits and quit trying to play doctor.’” The general manager of an oil field company, Smith hopes to get a kidney transplant. His sons, Todd and Joshua, are eligible donors. Until then, Smith spends four days a week — more than three hours each day — on dialysis.
But living in Logansport, Smith doesn’t have to travel two hours round-trip to Shreveport. In fact, he doesn’t have to go anywhere. Smith gets his treatment in the comfort of his own home.
“I can do nights. I can do days. My normal routine is to get up at 4:30 in the morning and be on the machine before 5. After a little more than three hours, I’m off and on to work. Or, if I have a meeting that day, I just do it in the afternoon.”
Heather, Smith’s wife of 29 years, does all the heavy lifting.
“She’s got it down,” Smith said. “It’s just like putting your shoes on or riding a bicycle now. It’s boom, boom, boom.”
“Lots of people, when they come in, they are so overwhelmed, thinking, ‘How on earth can I do this?’” said Brigitte Hollenshead. She is a registered nurse with Fresenius Kidney Care and a Smith’s Care Team member. “You would be surprised. It’s supereasy to train anybody.
You don’t have to have a medical background. It’s just repetition, repetition.”
In-home dialysis isn’t new. But there is a relatively new machine which has improved the process. It’s called the NxStage machine — about the size of a printer, easy to operate and portable.
“(Going to a treatment center), the patient has that time between treatments when they accumulate more fluid — more toxins — in their body,” said Hollenshead.
“When they are on this NxStage machine, they are doing it daily (if needed), where it’s a daily cleansing of the toxins — daily fluid removal,” Hollenshead said. “Overall, that gives them a better feeling. It simulates like they’ve had a kidney transplant. Their labs start looking tremendously better, and overall, they feel tremendously different.”
That’s what happened with Smith. “It was just a remarkable thing to see him come in feeling horrible and thinking he was not going to have a good quality of life anymore,” Hollenshead said. “The more he was on this machine, the better he started to feel. “ That’s not the only advantage. Patients like Smith appreciate their freedom by using the NxStage machine.
“At first, you think, ‘Oh, I’m on dialysis. You think it’s the end of being able to do anything,’” Smith said. “I pretty much still do a normal life. I work a job. … It’s business as normal. I still hunt. I still fish. I still enjoy the things in life. It takes a little bit more preparation.”
For Smith, enjoying “the things in life” includes traveling.
“If you’re going to go off on a twoor three-day trip, you pack up your little machine,” Smith said. “I’ve got a traveling bag and the supplies you need. It takes a little more planning. You could go on a two-week trip. Take your pickup, load your supplies, have your freedom.”
While in-home dialysis is convenient for the patient, it certainly doesn’t take the place of trying to keep from going on dialysis. Hollenshead said diabetes and uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure) are two of the main reasons people end up on dialysis.
“There are some people that just through their choices and lifestyle, for whatever reasons, may not have taken their medication as prescribed. They knew this could be a possibility, but for whatever reasons, did not do it. Other people, they tried their best to keep their blood sugar and blood pressure under control, and it just didn’t work.”
As for Smith, he has a few more benchmarks to meet before receiving a transplant. Until then, he and his boys have some thinking to do.
“We’ll have to decide which one is going to do it,” Smith said. “Both of them are willing to do it.”
To learn more about in-home kidney dialysis, you may visit: www.freseniuskidneycare.com.