Being a kidney disease patient sometimes requires a lot of assistance and attention — from doctors, care teams, friends, families, and even organizations. But what if, at times, what you really need is a pair of floppy listening ears? Or someone small and furry to keep you company?
According to researchers, medical experts, academic institutions, veterinary organizations, and even the Center for Disease Control, there are many emotional and physical benefits that come with owning a pet. Animal friends can help lower heart rates, stress, and blood pressure1. They can provide opportunities for exercise and socialization. They give and receive affection and offer emotional support. Plus, they’re awfully darn cute.
We don’t need scientific experts to tell us that pets make wonderful companions and often provide the prrrrrrfect dose of “therapy” at the tail end of a long day. In this edition of Atlas, our Patient Advocates take a “paws” to discuss how their four-legged family members make life better.
ChelseaNow transplanted, former NxStage user and HHD patient
“I felt all my pets were guarding me in their own way, especially since I was treating solo,” Chelsea recalls. My orange cat, Cosmo, would lay nearby while I was treating and keep me company. Our black Labrador retriever, Leah, would guard the door, and Rupert the Yorkshire terrier would be laying at my feet. Jade, our gray Maine coon cat, who is now deceased, would always sit in the window and soak up the sun.”
JimmieNxStage user, HHD patient
“We have a 16-year-old tabby cat that has been with us through my entire dialysis journey,” says Jimmie. “Her name is Ziggy, but we usually just call her Kitty. She always knows when treatment is over and comes to see me. She has always loved me and likes to snuggle and kiss my face. When I am not feeling well, she lies with me, which helps me feel comforted.”
BrielleNxStage user, HHD patient
“Chui, a Chihuahua, is actually an emotional support animal and has traveled by plane with me many times for vacations,” says Brielle. “He is such a good boy and lays nearby whenever I do dialysis. When I’m done, he’s right there waiting for me. He has gotten me through so much, especially when my late husband passed. My kitty, Zoeki, has now passed too, but he would snuggle with us all the time. I feel so blessed to have such amazing and compassionate fur babies!”
LisaNow transplanted, former NxStage user and HHD patient
“My dogs, Hunter and Marley, are such an integral part of my life,” says Lisa. ”They were my caregivers who never left my side. There was never a time they didn’t put a smile on my face, even on my darkest of days. Through seven years of home hemodialysis, and after my transplant, they have always given me support. I don’t know what it would’ve been like if they weren’t with me. Their unconditional love is what brightens up our lives.”
A.J.NxStage user, HHD patient
“I have two tabbies — an orange girl named Kira and my boy Shade, who is gray,” explains AJ. “I've had cats my whole life, so I know the many benefits of having pets around, especially now that I'm older, live alone, and have to deal with health issues. Having health problems can be a big hit emotionally and physically, and it's just nice to come home to a house that isn't empty. There's life in the house and that makes a real big difference. My cats helped get me through the pandemic, just by being there; by providing some companionship and affection.”
ErichNxStage user, HHD patient
“My living donor suggested I get a puppy, and she grew up with a Boston terrier,” says Erich, explaining why he recently added a new member to his family. “The personality of this little fellow is huge! His name is Lil’ Prince and he definitely helped bring smiles to all of our faces while we were quarantining. Cassie, our chocolate Labrador retriever, has been a tremendous companion through the years, and at difficult times has encouraged me to get out of the house to walk her in all types of Michigan weather. I am forever grateful for her.”
*Be sure to keep pets away from equipment to prevent damage that may lead to poor system performance.