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30th September 2014

My home, my dialysis

It’s about freedom. Flexibility. Choice. People with kidney failure once had just two options: kidney transplantation or visiting a clinic for dialysis several times per week. Now that’s changed.

Even those suitable for transplantation usually could spend years on dialysis waiting for the call to say a suitable organ has become available. Many never get that call. The dialysis clinic becomes part of life.

Now, more and more people are choosing to undergo dialysis at home, at a time of their choosing. No appointments, no waiting to be seen.

For people like Flynn Ramirez, home dialysis offers flexibility and the chance of a better lifestyle.

The doctor advises how often and for how long patients should use their home dialysis machines. But deciding when to have dialysis is up to them. They can plan around work, study or family commitments and still have essential treatment that cleans their blood.

Bringing it all back home

Home dialysis cleans the blood in the way that kidneys should. There are two main types:

– Haemodialysis machines filter the blood and return it to the body

– Peritoneal dialysis uses a catheter to fill the abdomen with cleansing liquid which is then drained to remove waste.

It sounds complicated but, with proper training and some family support, both types of dialysis can be done at home. Patients say that after a while it becomes ‘second nature’.

Young Emily, aged 14, can do it. When she was just two years old she got a disease which led her kidney to fail.

Her mother donated a kidney to her when she was five years old but that organ, says Emily, ‘shrivelled up’ leaving her facing a lifetime of hospital appointments. Today, thanks to home dialysis, Emily manages her own dialysis with the help of her family and the remote support of her doctors.

Could you do it?

The biggest deterrent is fear, according to health professionals. For some people, home modifications might be required and it can be important to have caregivers around to assist if necessary.

But people from four years of age to patients in their 90s have been trained to manage home dialysis.

Brian has become quite expert in handling his own care. He and his wife are glad they opted for home dialysis when the doctor suggested it. ‘I thought “that’s a good idea – I don’t have to worry about the weather and my wife driving [to the hospital]”.’

He does it in the morning, often with his dog on his lap. Then he takes a nap if he is tired and gets one with the rest of his day.

If you want a bit more background on kidney failure and home dialysis, here’s a handy animated intro to dialysis from a doctor who likes to draw! His message is clear – you can do it:

‘If you can manage an ATM bank machine and have the dexterity to button your shirt, you can handle home dialysis.’

You are free to share this article under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported license.

Photo credit: Matej Duzel/Flickr

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