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Over 80 Years of Dialysis: A personal reflection on relying on life sustaining technology to survive

30 April 2024

Candice McKenzie

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Did you know that the first dialysis machine was invented more than 80 years ago?

A Brief History of Dialysis

 

Dialysis is a remarkable medical treatment that has played a crucial role in saving lives since its development in the 1940s. Dr. Willem Kolff, a pioneering Dutch physician, is widely recognised as the father of dialysis. In 1943, he constructed the first dialyser, also known as an artificial kidney, laying the foundation for modern dialysis treatment.

 

Dialysis performs essential functions that your kidneys normally do to maintain the body's balance, such as removing waste and extra fluids, regulating mineral levels in the blood, and helping to control blood pressure.

 

My Personal Journey with Dialysis

In 2019, I was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger's disease, a kidney condition with autoimmune origins. As the disease progressed, my kidneys failed, and in 2022, I began dialysis as part of my ongoing treatment.

Initially, I underwent peritoneal dialysis, a form of home dialysis meant to offer flexibility. However, looking back, I found it to be quite restrictive for my lifestyle. I had to administer four fluid exchanges a day, every four hours, making it challenging to plan activities away from home. As someone with a portfolio career, balancing different professions including being a full-time podcast producer, a freelance radio presenter, and a travelling DJ, this restriction proved overwhelming. Traveling, especially overseas, became an incredibly stressful endeavour as I had to manage the logistics of carrying dialysis fluid with me.

 

In March 2023, complications with peritoneal dialysis led to pneumonia, resulting in hospitalisation. It was then, in June 2023, that I decided to switch to hemodialysis via a line. This decision proved to be the best for my health. I now undergo hemodialysis three times a week, with each session lasting 3.5 hours, and I am thriving!

 

I feel that it is important to note that alongside this life-saving treatment, several other factors contribute to my well-being. I am fortunate that my dialysis centre is close to my home, and that my sessions are scheduled at midday, allowing me to maintain a balance between work and treatment. I also prioritise a healthy lifestyle, ensuring I eat well, get enough rest, and take necessary supplements to keep my body balanced. Dialysis is not a cure; rather, it is a life-sustaining treatment. Without it, I would not survive.

 

The Mission of ACKEE

 

Having experienced kidney failure firsthand, I am immensely grateful for the availability of dialysis treatment. However, my journey has also taught me the importance of preventing kidney disease as well as having these amazing treatment options available.

 

This realisation led me to establish the African Caribbean Kidney Education Enterprise (ACKEE). Our mission is simple yet profound: to educate Black African Caribbean communities about kidney health and the importance of organ donation.  By fostering dialogue, promoting healthy lifestyles, and raising awareness, we aim to create a future where kidney disease is less prevalent in the Black community. Our vision is to reduce the number of people dependent on dialysis by advocating for kidney health and encouraging organ donation.

 

I invite you to join us in our mission to advocate and educate. A great place to start is to follow us on social media @wearetheackee where you can engage with our posts and learn more.  Together, we can make a difference in the fight against kidney disease.

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