A Milestone of Sorts

Many of my friends are aware that I have been living with kidney disease (Membranoproliferative Glomerulonephritis, Type I) for a number of years. A milestone of sorts has arrived, though, so I thought it about time to bring everyone up to date.

Earlier this year, my nephrologist came to the conclusion that I would need to go onto dialysis as my kidney function had been deteriorating at a fairly fast pace recently. In advance of that need, on July 18 I underwent a procedure to insert a catheter into my abdomen to the right of my belly button. This catheter facilitates my preferred choice of dialysis, which is called peritoneal dialysis (PD). The peritoneum is a lining of the abdominal cavity, but as used in PD serves as an effective filter for drawing wastes from one’s body.

I completed a week of training on the PD cycler machine on September 12. I now have this machine beside my bed to which is connected two five-litre bags of sugary fluid. I hook up that machine to the catheter and while I sleep, it pumps this fluid into my belly, lets it dwell there for a while, drains it out and pumps some more fluid in over several cycles, and effectively removes the waste from my blood, performing the function that my kidneys are no longer adequate to handle.

There are a number of reasons why I prefer this to the traditional means of dialysis, hemodialysis at a hospital clinic:

1. PD means I can lead a more or less normal daytime life, albeit with some time devoted each day to the setup and cleanup of the equipment. Having said that, I have not yet had a normal night’s sleep since I started.

2. PD is done daily rather than 3 times a week in the clinic version of hemodialysis, so my blood is cleaner.

3. My diet is not as restricted on PD vs. hemodialysis.

4. The machine can be packed in a carry-on case to take on an airplane or in a car, and the supplier of the fluid and related equipment, Baxter, can also ship it anywhere in the world, so travel remains a possibility even after beginning PD.

Despite all that, I find the reality of daily dialysis somewhat daunting. I’m literally confined by a tether of several feet for a solid eight hours. But, at least I have this option until a possible kidney transplant comes along. And given that the doctors said 30 years ago that I had 10-15 years before my kidneys would fail, I’ve done pretty well, and for that I am grateful.

Thank you for the opportunity to share.

Russell Sawatsky


London, Ontario, Canada


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