Important information for patients starting dialysis
Dialysis is a process for removing waste and excess water from the blood, and is used primarily as an artificial replacement for lost kidney function in people with renal failure. The Scarborough Hospital’s Chronic Kidney Disease Program is one of the largest in North America, treating more than 5,000 patients with kidney disease and another 750 dialysis patients.
Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney disease. High blood glucose levels and high blood pressure can damage the kidneys over time. But for long-time dialysis patient Terri Bradshaw, diabetes was not the diagnosis that turned her life upside down 10 years ago.
“It was glomerulonephritis, which is not diabetes-related,” Terri says. “When I was first diagnosed, I was in denial until I became so sick, I had no objections to going on dialysis because I just wanted to feel better.
“I won’t deny that dialysis is very invasive, and there is pain involved,” explains Terri, who is Chair of the Home Dialysis Peer Support Group at The Scarborough Hospital. “You really don’t understand what it means until it happens to you, but I always tell people that it beats the alternative.”
For newly diagnosed patients needing to start dialysis, Terri offers the following advice:
- Gather as much information as possible provided by doctors and nurses, and review it at home with someone you trust who will help you. Go over it together in a quiet environment that’s less stressful because you can’t possibly absorb all that information in the doctor’s office.
- Write out questions for your medical appointments even if they seem silly. Quite often during appointments, your discussion with the doctor takes another track. Keep a log of your questions and answers, because when you’re sick, it may be hard to remember everything. Better yet, take someone with you to your appointment.
- Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by healthcare professionals. Be prepared for your appointments and be your own advocate. Be involved, be in charge, and take an interest in your treatment.
- Take advantage of any non-clinical information or support, such as a peer support group, touring the facility, watching the dialysis machines in action and talking to other patients.
- And the most important and probably the hardest thing is to stay positive, even when don’t feel good. Without a positive outlook, it’s very easy to slip into black hole of depression.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month. For more information on diabetes, visit www.diabetes.ca.