Tag Archives: hemodialysis

Infographics about Kidney Disease and Organ Donation

Here are a couple of recently published “infographics” that contain some stark information about kidney disease and organ donation, courtesy of the Kidney Foundation of Canada. Given the increasing prevalence of organ failure in general and kidney disease in particular, it’s quite likely that this is more than mere statistics. Beyond myself, you may very well know someone else among your friends and extended family who is dealing with a disease that may ultimately lead to life-threatening organ failure.

Thanks for your support,

Russ Sawatsky


Another Kidney Transplant for a Co-Worker and Friend

A while after I went onto dialysis in 2014, I learned that a co-worker of mine, Rehana, had also been dealing with kidney disease for decades and had recently begun hemodialysis. Yesterday, I learned that last Sunday, January 22, she had undergone a kidney transplant here in London, Ontario at University Hospital, the same hospital where I had my transplant surgery.

Unlike in my case, Rehana received a kidney from a deceased donor. As is sometimes the case when receiving a kidney from a deceased, rather than a living, donor, Rehana has had to continue with dialysis for the time being, as the transplanted kidney has yet to “wake up.” This delay is not entirely uncommon, but naturally it is a situation that is not ideal. Please join me in hoping and praying for Rehana that her kidney will wake up soon so that she can begin a new life free of dialysis and continue her recovery at home.

Finally, allow me to encourage you to register your consent to be an organ donor so that you can leave a legacy after your death of making a profound difference in the life of someone in need. Find the link to your province or territory here.

Russ Sawatsky

Tireless advocate for organ donation finally gets ‘the call’

I’ve been following the story of James Myers since shortly after I went on dialysis in September 2014. Mr. Myers has been on dialysis for four years but late last month he finally got “the call.” The following is an article that came via change.org (written by Jerry Davich and originally published in the Chicago Tribune), an organization through which Mr. Myers has been advocating for legislation in the US to protect living organ donors.

Tireless advocate for organ donation finally gets ‘the call’


James Myers, 61, heads into surgery April 27 with a thumbs up, flanked by his “sweetheart” Tori Pines, his son, Jim Myers, and his son’s wife, Monica, at Indiana University Health hospital in Indianapolis. (Handout – James Myers)

James Myers
Crown Point, IN
MAY 7, 2016 — James Myers looked weary but cheerful when he returned home from an Indianapolis hospital with his little bundle of joy.

It weighed a quarter of a pound, and was the size of a fist. It’s name is “Woody.”

“It’s a family name,” said Myers, 61, of Gary.

After nearly four years of waiting and wondering, Myers finally got the call he had been praying for, hoping for, advocating for. It came on April 26.

At 11 a.m. that day, Myers posted on his Facebook page: “I just got THE call. IU says they have a kidney for me!”

This post was dramatically different from hundreds of previous posts over the past few years, many which read like this one from April 18 of this year: “My name is Jim Myers, from Crown Point, IN, and I am an ESRD patient currently on dialysis, awaiting a transplant. I am on the list. If you are interested in becoming a donor…”

I read dozens of those somber posts, each one pleading for a life-saving transplant amid other social media friends who posted about their pets, chronic gripes or daily errands. I always wondered how Myers felt while reading such nonsense, relatively speaking.

“I am a type O blood type,” Myers wrote again and again to friends, followers and strangers. “All medical costs are covered by insurance and incidental costs can be worked out.”

When I first met Myers in 2013, he sat quietly in a large chair inside the Fresenius Medical Center in Crown Point. He read a newspaper while his blood was artificially cleansed of waste by a whirring dialysis machine that beeped every few seconds.

With a blanket draped over his legs and a catheter connected to his chest, Myers sat patiently for hours, as most dialysis patients must do. He visited there three times a week for at least four hours each time to undergo hemodialysis, which replaces the function of his failing kidneys.

Myers suffered from polycystic kidney disease, which took the lives of several family members, including his father, he said. Though Myers was diagnosed in his younger days, his positive lifestyle choices the past three decades only delayed the inevitable.

His genetic fate caught up to him in 2012 and he had been on dialysis ever since. “I have no choice. You either submit to dialysis or you die,” Myers told me that day.

Chronic kidney disease may be caused by diabetes, high blood pressure and other disorders. Early detection and treatment can often keep chronic kidney disease from getting worse. When kidney disease progresses, it may eventually lead to kidney failure, which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant to maintain life.

This was the dilemma Myers faced each day, each week, each month.

He didn’t settle for only waiting and wondering or for posting pleading messages on social media for a life-saving transplant.

Myers became a tireless advocate for kidney donation, organ donation, live donor legislature and anything related to kidney disease.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Most people who need a new kidney die on the waiting list

Cheryl and Mike Simoens

Cheryl and Mike Simoens

I’m posting links to two articles about Cheryl Simoens, a 32-year-old, who is receiving a kidney from her brother 20 years after receiving a first transplant from her father. The first article, from the Winnipeg Free Press, contains the stark line that I used for the title of this post. The second article, from CTV News, raises the controversial subject of presumed consent but also describes the minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery that will be used to remove the kidney from the kidney donor, Cheryl’s brother, Michael Simoens.

Woman who is getting kidney from brother raises awareness about organ donation

First, her dad gave her a kidney, allowing Cheryl Simoens to grow up to be a half-marathoner and avid rock-climber.

Now, nearly 20 years later, it’s Simoens’ brother who is stepping up, donating his kidney to save his sister’s life.

“I feel incredibly grateful to have family members who are willing to donate an organ so selflessly,” Simoens, 32, said in a statement. “It is an indescribable feeling to be given the chance to get your life back and I am overwhelmed with joy to be able to live life to the fullest once again.”

This evening, the Simoens siblings will speak with the media in an effort to raise awareness about organ donation. Most people who need a new kidney die on the waiting list. In Manitoba, the typical wait is 5.5 to seven years for an available organ. In 2014, there were only seven kidney donations from deceased donors in Manitoba, and donation rates are “stagnating,” according to the local branch of the Kidney Foundation of Canada.

To read more of this article, click here.

Brother donates kidney to save sister

Huddled around a photo album, the Simoens family takes a timely look back at a day that changed their lives.

Twenty years ago, dad Ronald became a living kidney donor for his daughter, Cheryl. At the time, the young girl had already lived 11 years with Cystinosis; a chronic and genetic kidney disease.

“I was diagnosed at 15-months-old and rushed to the hospital many, many times. Very dehydrated, very listless and general failure to thrive,” said Simoens.

That changed with medication, and became a distant memory after the first transplant.

“We didn’t realize how suppressed her personality was because she was so sick for so long. But after the transplant, her personality just exploded and she started talking back,” said older brother, Michael.

Now 32, Simoens is active; taking on rock climbing competitions and setting her sights on a half iron-man. But in August 2015, things slowed down again when her kidneys began to fail once more.

To read more of this article, click here.

Since this is an article from Winnipeg, here is the link to register as a donor in Manitoba.

I welcome your comments. In particular, what do you think of the idea of presumed consent, “where every Manitoban of adult age would be an organ donor unless they decided to opt out”?


Hemodialysis vs. Peritoneal Dialysis

I have posted photos of the cycler machine that I use to accomplish nightly peritoneal dialysis. The other, and more commonly known type of dialysis is hemodialysis, generally accomplished in a clinic, although home hemodialysis is also an option. For today’s post, I will present some information on these two main types of dialysis. For more information, please go the Kidney Foundation of Canada website.


Hooked up to the hemodialysis machine. Blood vessels are accessed through the arm, neck or as in this case, the chest.

Hooked up to the hemodialysis machine. Blood vessels are accessed through the arm, neck or as in this case, the chest.

Hemodialysis means “cleaning the blood” and that’s exactly what this treatment does. Blood is withdrawn from the body by a machine and passed through an artificial kidney called a dialyzer.

There are several different kinds of dialysis machines, but they work in almost the same way. A dialyzer (artificial kidney) is attached to the machine. The dialyzer has two spaces: a space for blood and a space for dialysis fluid. Dialysis fluid is a special liquid which helps remove waste products from the blood. The two spaces in the dialyzer are separated from each other by a very thin artificial membrane. Blood passes on one side of the membrane and the dialysis fluid passes on the other side.

Each hemodialysis treatment normally takes four to five hours. Some people call a treatment a “run”. Usually, you need three treatments (or “runs”) a week. However, certain people may need more frequent treatments or longer treatments. Sometimes shorter treatments are sufficient.

Hemodialysis is done in a hospital dialysis unit where nurses, nephrologists and other medical support staff are available. Once a patient on hemodialysis is stable, it may be possible to have hemodialysis treatments in a clinic away from the hospital, in a self-care centre (with some help from the staff), or at home. Special training is needed for self-care or home hemodialysis. Not all types of treatment are available in all communities.

Hemodialysis – strengths and limitations


  • Relieves symptoms of uremia
  • Works quickly and efficiently
  • Requires at least three treatments a week, each four to eight hours
  • Most people have suitable blood vessels for establishing an access site


  • You will have to take medications, learn new food choices, and restrict your intake of fluids
  • Access to the bloodstream is with needles, which some people find difficult
  • You must plan your week around your hemodialysis schedule (although with home hemodialysis, you can plan your treatment schedule around your week)
  • You may need to travel some distance to the hemodialysis unit
  • Some people do not have suitable blood vessels for establishing an access site

Peritoneal Dialysis

A young patient getting trained on peritoneal dialysis.

A young patient getting trained on peritoneal dialysis using the cycler. The cycler changes the fluid over the course of several cycles at night while you sleep.

Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis.

Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis. Fluid is changed periodically during the day.



Peritoneal dialysis is another form of dialysis used to remove waste products and excess water. It works on the same principle as hemodialysis, but your blood is cleaned while still inside your body rather than in a machine.

In peritoneal dialysis, the inside of your abdomen—your peritoneal cavity—is  filled with a special dialysis fluid that looks like water. This exposes blood vessels in the peritoneum to the fluid. The peritoneum functions just like the artificial membrane in a dialyzer. Excess water and wastes pass from the blood through the peritoneum into the dialysis fluid. The fluid is then drained from your body and discarded, and the process is repeated four to six times in every 24-hour period.

In peritoneal dialysis you always have dialysis fluid in your peritoneal cavity, so your blood is constantly being cleaned. The fluid is changed at regular intervals throughout the day.

Dialysis fluid enters the peritoneal cavity through a tube called a catheter. The catheter is surgically inserted in your abdomen, usually below and to one side of your navel and stays there as long as you are using this form of dialysis.

The insertion of the catheter may cause discomfort for a brief period, but peritoneal dialysis is not painful. However, care must be taken to avoid infection.

Peritoneal dialysis – strengths and limitations


  • Relieves symptoms of uremia
  • Is less stressful on your body because dialysis is done continuously (i.e. daily) versus intermittently (i.e. three times per week)
  • Allows you a more liberal diet
  • Frees you from hospital
  • Makes it easier to travel
  • Gives you greater flexibility with your treatment


  • Permanent catheter in your abdomen
  • Possibility of peritonitis (infection of your peritoneal cavity)
  • Dialysis must be a daily part of your life
  • You will have to take medications
  • You will need to learn new food choices
  • You will need to prevent the catheter from getting wet (no swimming)