A day in the life of kidney failure

Christopher Gooding
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March is Kidney Month

Kidney disease changes lives forever.

Kidney failure and dialysis takes all the good things out of the body, Marie Potter says holding a day’s worth of medication she needs to take following a night of dialysis.

AMHERST – The importance of kidney research and finding cures for when the body’s blood filter call it quits is evident when we look at how life changes due to kidney failure.

Here in Amherst, Marie Potter spends 10 hours a night with a dialysis machine as her companion. A series of solutions are introduced into her to do what her failed kidney no longer does. The procedure is a lifesaver, but it’s not like she has the same life she used to.

“My biggest complaint is the fatigue,” Potter says. “I have severe problems with my feet. It’s part of the dialysis – nerve pain.”

Potter’s life before dialysis was filled with human contact. She worked at a daycare before working at the now-closed deaf school in Amherst. In 1997, after returning to college, she worked with the Victorian Order of Nurses.

About ten years ago, though, her kidneys were troubling her. To be more specific, her only kidney.

“I was only born with one kidney,” she says. “There was part of another one, but it was only small and not functional.”

Within five years, she was on home dialysis.

Beside her bed the dialysis machine is within arm’s length, while bags of solution hang from the walls. In her laundry room boxes of more solution, hoses and gauze are lined up from one wall to another. All of it is used for the nightly routine.

“Once I’m hooked in I’m hooked in,” Potter says. “Do I feel it? No not really. Sometimes at the end of my drain I’ll get a few cramps, but there’s no real pain involved with dialysis, but it’s a long time to be in bed. Especially when I wake up at six in the morning and my dialysis might not be done until nine.”

Potter was on the list for a kidney donation and her sister had offered to be her donor, but then she and her sisters all developed breast cancer, removing them from the eligibility list.

“Three sisters, all developed breast cancer within ten months of each other,” Potter said. “One of my sisters didn’t make it.”

Potter is cancer-free now, but she needs to be cancer-free for at least five years before she can be considered for a transplant again. Because of her blood-type, if she were to get on the waiting list again, she could be looking at another five years before a donor is available, meaning for the next ten years the home dialysis machine will continue to be her bedroom companion. She hopes.

“That’s my biggest fear – that I’ll need blood dialysis in a hospital someday. The travelling, the time spent in the hospital, time to recoup and then to have to do it all over again the next day.”

As it is, Potter can spend her days at home. If she’s feeling up to it, she putters around the house. If not, she takes naps. She doesn’t get out and interact with people like she used to, but she’s alive. And that’s the most important thing.

Organizations: Victorian Order

Geographic location: AMHERST

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  • Keith Eveson
    March 11, 2014 - 03:46

    PLEASE, PLEASE BE AN ORGAN DONOR, What's the alternative, burn, or bury them, why not enhance or save someones life instead. Please give it some thought.

  • Keith Eveson
    March 11, 2014 - 03:43

    PLEASE, PLEASE BE AN ORGAN DONOR, What's the alternative, burn, or bury them, why not enhance or save someones life instead. Please give it some thought.

  • David Hesser
    March 10, 2014 - 14:02

    “That’s my biggest fear – that I’ll need blood dialysis in a hospital someday. The travelling, the time spent in the hospital, time to recoup and then to have to do it all over again the next day.” -----Hemo is actually every other day.