All You Can Eat at Christmas
Kidney patient and Kidney Wales staff member, Brett Dowds, has written this powerful blog piece. Here, Brett talks about the different treatments he has received over the years, how he found the right one for him and what he plans to eat this Christmas.
Being a kidney patient on dialysis at Christmas can be really hard. It can be far more difficult and far more emotional than being on dialysis other times during the year.
For a lot of people, the Christmas period means a chance to stop working for a few days, relax and spend time with family and friends, share meals and celebrate the season. But for a dialysis patient it’s simply not that easy. If you’re on haemodialysis in-centre, then you must go to your renal unit three times a week for four hours of dialysis but when you add in the transport, getting on and coming off the machine, you can be away from home for six hours. Dialysis units are closed on Christmas Day so that means every patient’s shifts must be changed to ensure they can still receive treatment.
So, how do I fit in to this? I am a Kidney patient myself living with it for the past 28 years. I have had two transplants; the first when I was five-years old (I got nine great years out of that kidney). My second transplant was at age sixteen and it lasted five years. I was on home peritoneal dialysis at night, in the periods between transplant. Being a paediatric patient at Christmas meant a very strict diet but I had the benefit of at least being home with my family, even though I was on my machine.
When I was 21 and lost my second kidney, it was a month before Christmas. I was then living in Glasgow and most of my family were in Wales. I had planned to spend Christmas with them but losing the kidney and being put back on haemodialysis threw a huge spanner in the works. At first, I was told I could not go to Wales, as I had not long begun dialysis. But that would have meant being alone for Christmas. My renal unit tried to get me holiday dialysis but that failed. I was determined to get to Wales and eventually got the go ahead, BUT it meant going three days without dialysis, which I do not recommend… A pre Covid-19 activity!
It was one of the most restricted Christmas dinners I had ever had. Luckily, I don’t drink alcohol at Christmas but my low phosphate, low potassium diet was horrible! I was not allowed chocolate, cheese, and all my veg was boiled to death. And being restricted to 1litre of liquid a day meant such a small amount of gravy on my Christmas lunch! It was tough, but I was with my family. Three days flew by and before I knew it, it was the 27th and I had to get back to dialysis!
By my second Christmas on dialysis I had moved back to Wales. Diet restrictions were not anywhere near as strict because I was in a local unit. However, it still meant leaving everyone to go for treatment.
Nearly 10years ago I started training for home haemodialysis. Home therapy has made a huge difference to my quality of life. My first Christmas on home dialysis I was completely set up and my dialysis routine was working for me. I was doing three hours, five days a week, I had less of a fluid restriction and my diet was not as strict. I had the facilities there to remove the toxins.
Today I’m on nocturnal dialysis. My routine is alternative nights a week for up to eight hours per session, I adjust according to my plans. But, even better, for me, nocturnal dialysis means no food restrictions, longer slower dialysis removes more toxins. I also have more energy. Think about a working Kidney that is functioning 24/7 removing all the badness from your body. On Nocturnal treatment I get between 24-32 hours a week of dialysis, it is removing so much more, with the added bonus that if I eat and/or drink too much I can go on my machine.
Freedom is the wonderful thing about home dialysis for me. Especially at Christmas when it seems like all the good stuff is so high in potassium and phosphate. I plan to eat so much that setting up my dialysis may be a challenge… moving in general may be a challenge! I will be spending this Christmas with my sister, my bubble since the summer. I know I am lucky to have this, if you cannot be with your loved ones in person, try being there virtually. We will be sharing a virtual Christmas with family in Australia.
If you do wonder about treatment choice, now or in the future, ask about the different dialysis options available. Be empowered and find the right treatment for you.