This is actually a huge issue. While in the hospital last January, my kidneys started working enough so that I began to produce urine. We were hopeful that this meant I would regain function, which as you know has not happened, but I do at least still pee. Little did I know, but that would be huge in affecting my quality of life over these past 10 months. The kidneys are amazing organs with a lot of redundancy; even though my glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is about 8 ml/minute, and normal is about 125 ml/minute, my kidneys can still get rid of the fluid I drink. They can’t filter off all the rest of the solutes and toxins that we produce on a daily basis, which is why I need dialysis, but they can get rid of water. This means that when I am on dialysis, three days per week for 4 ½ hours/day, they don’t have to draw off water. I have been told that it is the withdrawal of fluid that makes people feel so bad with dialysis.
Most people on dialysis don’t function well overall. On their dialysis days, they get treatment then are out of it for the rest of the day, indeed only 13% of individuals on dialysis are employed. In my dialysis center, the rest of the folks sleep or watch TV. Me, I work. Yes, I am tethered to a machine and have to sit still the whole time, which is annoying, but at least I can function. I am fortunate to be in a job where I can work remotely, but even for me this brings multitasking to a new level.
Create a picture in your head: me in a reclining chair, hooked up to the dialysis machine with my blood getting cycled at 400 ml/minute. Now put a table in front of me with my laptop on it. Add my cell phone and blackberry with which I am on back to back to back calls. OK now for the kicker – you can actually exercise during dialysis! So for an hour of my dialysis time, I pedal on a foot bike, exercising while typing on the computer. I ride 20 miles per day and even completed an honorary “Ride the Rockies” course – mimicking the famous 532 mile trip from Grand Junction to Salida.
So, as miserable as these past 10 months have been, and they have been miserable, at least I have been able to work full time, travel on my non-dialysis days, and go home at the end of the day and take care of my babies!