It was by chance that Barry Meek discovered he had kidney disease. A minor mishap sent him to the hospital in 1992. Routine blood work indicated renal failure caused by high blood pressure – something he did not know he had. Years later, his medical journey introduced him to home dialysis – giving him more flexibility to live his life at home and away.
After his initial diagnosis, Barry started taking blood pressure medicine, stopped smoking and changed his diet. Barry said, “I stopped eating fried food and junk food. I also quit smoking and drinking ““ since one without the other wasn’t much fun. I continued working at the American Red Cross and kept my life going as normal as possible.” These changes kept him off dialysis for five more years.
Barry didn’t let his kidney health slow him down. In 1996, he took a second job with the St. Louis Rams as a guest services host. His duties include crowd control and making sure the media doesn’t come too far onto the field when filming. “It’s a fine job – I get to see all the home football games. Unfortunately, we did not get Super Bowl rings – now that would have been nice.”
In early 1997, Barry was told by his Washington University physicians, internist Lewis Fishbein, MD and renal specialist David Windus, MD, it was time to start dialysis. Barry was on dialysis for a little over a year when he received a kidney transplant.
Life saving, not life restricting
Barry’s kidney transplant was rejected in 2001 and he had to start dialysis again. He had been coming to the Washington University dialysis center for two months when renal specialist Brent Miller, MD, suggested home dialysis. Lisa Koester, a nurse practitioner, trained me to do home dialysis – she is very special to me. I now do nocturnal (when I’m sleeping) home dialysis six nights a week – sometimes it’s six nights in a row and some weeks I’ll do three nights on, one night off, three nights on – it’s my choice. The home program gives me the freedom to keep working both jobs, travel, and do whatever I want to do. I also see Dr. Miller once a month – I wouldn’t trade him for anything.”
As a big fan of home dialysis, Barry talks up the advantages to others on dialysis. But he says the fear of sticking themselves with needles is what keeps most people from trying it. He tells them “You’d be surprised at what you can do if you have to do it to survive.”
Barry has his dialysis routine down to a science. He tries to be on the machine by 10 pm and off by 6 am, for a total of eight hours. That gives him time in the morning to remove his lines, sterilize the machine, get ready for work, eat a little breakfast, have his coffee and watch the news before he heads out the door for the day.
Have machine, will travel
Being on home nocturnal dialysis has allowed Barry to travel. His new machine is small enough (about 18″ x 15″) to be portable and is easily transported on a dolly (airlines do not charge for medical equipment). Barry and his wife recently were able to go on a cruise. When they arrived at the ship, all his supplies were waiting for him in his stateroom. “I always wanted to go on a cruise, but I felt restricted. There’s really not much I can’t do now.”
Once his kidney was rejected, Barry was eligible to go back on the transplant list. But he was doing so well with the home dialysis, he put a hold on getting a transplant. He said, “My health was good ““ if something’s not broken, why mess with it?”
He decided it’s now time to get another transplant, before he gets too old. Besides his wish for another kidney, Barry’s wish would be for a dialysis machine that uses one needle instead of two. Hopefully both wishes will come true.