My wife Mona started dialysis a few weeks ago. For now we are doing the dialysis at the facility, but we are being trained to do it at home. Once the training is complete, we’ll go home with a small dialysis machine (about the size of a home stereo) and a month’s worth of supplies, and we will be able to do the procedure on our own schedule.
The dialysis procedure itself lasts about three hours, but the machine takes an additional 30 minutes to set up and about fifteen to shut down. Home dialysis is done more often than in-center dialysis, either four or five days per week, with never more than a day off in between.
We’ve known for quite a while these days were coming. Mona has a degenerative kidney disease, and we watched helplessly as she slipped from Stage Two kidney disease to Stage Three, Stage Four, Stage Five, and eventually complete renal failure.
Here we are.
And, surprisingly, it’s not as bad as we had feared. In fact, it’s better.
As her kidney function declined, so did Mona’s energy levels. The weekend before we started dialysis, she slept eighteen hours per day. She couldn’t help with the chores, she couldn’t exercise or work in the garden, she couldn’t do any of the things she loved. When she wasn’t asleep in the bed, she was curled up in a recliner in the living room. It happened so slowly that neither of us realized how much things had changed.
I was lonely. It was like living with a picture of her; she was there, but not there. She was alive, but not living.
Dialysis gave her back to me.
She sleeps a normal amount of time now, which gave us back ten hours per day right there, but more than that, she is able to lead a normal life. She mowed the lawn for the first time in two years, because she could. She does aerobics for ninety minutes at a time, she tosses in a load of laundry when the hamper’s full, she’s gardening and playing her guitar. She dances.
I don’t want to overstate it. The treatment is daunting, and restrictive. Travel will require careful planning, and it’s scary to have her health tied to a machine. There will always be things beyond our control, like power outages, and we have to plan and be prepared for worst-case scenarios. Infection, despite our best efforts, is always a possibility.
But the change in our lives has been dramatic. We’re starting to feel like ourselves again.
And I’ve missed that.