Mr. Dana Clay was only 23 when his kidneys failed. He was an active young man, but one day he came home from the gym feeling queasy and lightheaded. The doctor thought it was his tonsils, so he was started on antibiotics. When that didn’t help, Mr. Clay went to the hospital. Tests showed he had 7-8% kidney function.
Even though Mr. Clay had never been seriously sick, other than the occasional cold, his kidneys were failing. He didn’t have a year or two to get used to the idea that someday he would have to go on dialysis — he had to start immediately.
At home or in-center dialysis – there is no right or wrong decision
Home dialysis was the first option Mr. Clay chose. He was trained at Barnes-Jewish Dialysis Center and did home dialysis for five years ““ until he received a kidney transplant.
Unfortunately the transplanted kidney never did function 100%. Mr. Clay then returned to the dialysis center for in-center treatment and has been going ever since.
When asked if he would consider home dialysis again, Mr. Clay replied, “Home dialysis worked for me when I was younger. In-center dialysis works best for me now. I prefer to let someone else do all the work. At home I had to do everything, here I do nothing.”
Mr. Clay has dialysis three times a week — he starts about 5:45 am and finishes around 9:30 am. Then he goes on with the rest of his day.
Ask questions, get answers
“I was a bad patient at first,” said Mr. Clay. But he had a nurse who told him to ask everybody questions about everything. When procedures and doctor’s orders were explained to him, he became more cooperative because he was informed.
His best asset was attitude. He said to himself, “OK, if I have to do this, I’m going to be the best at it. What can I do to make this better for me?” He discovered it was important to eat the right foods, exercise and learn as much as he could to stay healthy. “Once you master it, life becomes easy.”
When Mr. Clay learned he could still do just about everything, he was much happier. “I really didn’t care about being on dialysis because it didn’t stop me from doing what I enjoyed. I could still play basketball. I could still go places. It was just a little inconvenience.”
Being on dialysis, says Mr. Clay, does not mean an end to vacations. Most dialysis centers have toll free numbers or online searches to make it very easy to make arrangements when you are away from home. Call the toll free number and tell them where you are going, and they will set it up for you. Or go online and type in the zip code of your destination — dialysis center locations pop up within a ten mile radius. “Dialysis is dialysis wherever you go.”
Barnes-Jewish Dialysis Center now has an in-house person who is dedicated to helping patients schedule their dialysis when they are traveling.
Mr. Clay’s advice for not feeling drained after dialysis is simple ““ just regulate what you eat and drink. “If you keep the amount of fluid you gain to a minimum of two to three kilos between treatments, you can avoid the peaks and valleys to keep your energy level on an even keel after dialysis. The less fluid they have to pull off to get you back to your “dry weight”, the better you will feel.”
It’s a partnership
Mr. Clay is a speaker at National Kidney Foundation seminars for people who are new to in-center hemodialysis. “I tell them that life isn’t over. They can still do just about everything they did before dialysis ““ they can work, travel, and enjoy their family and friends. The only downside is that it takes time out of your day. It’s a small speed bump.”
He serves as an example that you can survive this diagnosis and do very well. “It’s important to work with your dietitians and your doctors – to be in partnership with them and not just be a patient.”
One of the great rewards Mr. Clay gets is the positive feedback from the people he has spoken to. They are grateful for the advice he gave them. “You just do it because it’s the right thing to do.”