When I was 23 years old, I landed in the emergency room and was told I had kidney failure. It is certainly the kind of thing I didn’t expect to hear.
I had been a healthy child, I didn’t have any preexisting conditions, I didn’t smoke or drink, and the diagnosis was a shock to me. My heart rate and blood pressure were off the charts and my kidneys were swollen due to an infection. It was the sickest I have ever been in my life. Immediately they put me on steroid therapy to try and get control over my kidneys but it didn’t work and I was told I needed dialysis. From that moment on there was no going back, dialysis was my new future.
The diagnosis was particularly hard for my family. Growing up in a Hispanic and Filipino community, medical information can be hard to understand and access to disease state information can be hard to find. I remember my family asking me if dialysis was my only option and whether I needed another opinion but I felt like I was dying and I knew I needed dialysis.
I don’t really remember the transition from the hospital to in-center dialysis and I don’t remember those first conversations. I was so sick that all I could focus on was how in-center worked and what I needed to do. I started dialysis treatments right away and slowly my health came back. I was sleeping better, my headaches were gone, I had suffered from blurry vision, but my vision was getting better. The more I got used to in-center the more comfortable I became. I think you stick to what you know and even when the nurses would talk to me about home hemodialysis, I wasn’t interested because I was comfortable with what I knew.
I was on in-center therapy for 5 years until one day a technician was having a lobby day about home hemodialysis and asked to sit with me while I had my treatment. She looked at me and asked what I was missing out on in life and what was I doing before dialysis became part of my life. I had always been active in the church community and been a part of family events and I had missed out on those things since starting dialysis because I was too tired or I had to go in-center for treatment. She looked at me and said, “With home hemodialysis, you can get some of that freedom back.”
It was that conversation, that moment, after crash landing in dialysis and 5 years of in-center treatment, that one conversation changed my life.