Growing up in Sugarloaf, PA, is funny when you’re last name is “Whitebread.” That’s what Courtney Whitebread points out immediately when she begins to talk about her life. Humor like that—along with supportive family, friends and DaVita home dialysis care teammates—has helped Courtney on her journey with end stage renal disease (ESRD).
At 10 months old, Courtney was diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which led to kidney disease. Courtney has been on in-center hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis (PD) and had kidney transplants. After her third transplanted kidney failed, HHD was her next treatment option.
“The concept of being able to do hemodialysis in the comfort of my own surroundings was completely new to me and I had no idea how it would pan out,” said Courtney. Once she got into a routine, HHD became a great gift to her.
“Doing my treatments at home...allowed me more freedom. When I had to do treatments in-center, I felt trapped,” said Courtney. “Home hemo [allowed] me to feel physically and emotionally better than in-center, partly because I’m able to do more treatments per week…and partly because I don’t feel useless while doing treatments in a clinic.”
After being on HHD, Courtney got another kidney transplant in March 2012. She has been doing well since the operation.
But Courtney says she still believes HHD was a home treatment option that worked well for her. “There is light at the end of the tunnel, and when things are going well, home hemo allows you to do pretty much anything you’re able to do with functioning kidneys.”
Courtney says her parents have always been her cheerleaders and for that she is forever grateful. She also met someone very special, something she never thought would happen because of her medical problems. “He inspires me every day to keep going.”
Courtney has no plans of slowing down. She says, “I think the wise fish Dory from ‘Finding Nemo’ said it best: ‘Just keep swimming.’”
In 2001, Brad Davern was coughing up blood for two weeks. After the blood tests from the hospital lab came in, Brad’s doctor diagnosed him with a rare condition called Wegener’s disease. The disease damages the kidneys, and led Brad to start dialysis immediately.
Brad began hemodialysis at a center, but soon realized that type of environment wasn’t for him. Brad knew he wanted to take control of his dialysis treatments. That’s when he decided to switch to home hemodialysis.
“I enjoy the comfort of being in my own room. I can have the temperature at whatever I want, and watch movies or TV [while I dialyze].”
Once Brad trained to do home hemodialysis, he pushed forward with his active lifestyle, having been a star athlete in high school and basketball player in college. In 2007, Brad completed his first triathlon. “I’m always up for a challenge, so when the opportunity to participate in a triathlon was presented to me, I jumped at it.” Brad is currently training for a triathlon this summer held in Madison, WI.
Because Brad has had to cope with kidney disease, he says staying fit is therapeutic for him. “I’ve always liked to work out because it’s a release for me,” he said. “It’s a time where I can forget about everything that’s going on, including the fact that I have to do dialysis that day or night.”
Brad brought his competitive attitude to the U.S. Transplant Games, a sporting event for athletes who have received organ or bone marrow transplants. He earned a total of 7 medals in two different games. Brad had two different kidney transplant operations, but both times the kidneys were rejected by his body. He remains on the kidney donor waiting list.
Although Brad trains often for various sporting events, he also helps local school children achieve their athletic goals. For several years, Brad has coached a grade school basketball team in his neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Brad proudly says the team has garnered three championships in a row.
Brad seems to not believe in limitations because he has kidney disease and is on dialysis. After all, he has been skydiving twice and enjoys riding his Harley-Davidson. Brad said he would like other people with kidney disease who are considering home hemodialysis to not be afraid of giving this treatment modality a chance.
“HHD may seem overwhelming at first, but the nurses teaching you take good care of you and go over everything so it’s easy to understand. Here’s a chance to take your life and your care into your own hands, and who knows you better than yourself?”
Brad says there shouldn’t be stigmas surrounding people on dialysis. So far, it hasn’t stopped him from pursuing his goals and living a full life.
“[I would like people with kidney disease] to not look at dialysis as a barrier, but to look at it as an obstacle to overcome. If you put your mind to something there is no other outcome than success.”
Jorge and Albert Huerta are brothers who share more than an interest for baseball. Jorge and Albert both have Alport’s syndrome, an inherited disease of the kidney. The Huerta brothers discovered that they both needed dialysis to treat this type of kidney disease.
Jorge, 37, and Albert, 27, started dialysis treatments in a center. Being the active young men that they are, the Huertas wanted to explore their treatment options. The brothers were introduced to home hemodialysis (HHD). Jorge, who has been on dialysis since 2001, said he has experienced a positive change by doing hemodialysis at home compared to the in-center treatments he did before.
“The treatment is different; I feel better,” said Jorge. “It’s more convenient.”
Albert agrees, adding that doing home hemodialysis is more comfortable. “I have more energy, more time at home and more liberty to do what I want,” he says.
After beginning home hemodialysis, Jorge has found the time to start his own baseball bat-making business. When he did in-center hemodialysis in the past, Jorge found himself sleeping immediately after treatment. Now he has more energy to conduct his business, which keeps him busy most of the day. He also found the time to coach a little league baseball team.
Albert plays baseball and socializes a lot more in his free time. Albert also says that he feels more comfortable sleeping now that he does dialysis at home.
The brothers are happy to be given a chance to do home hemodialysis. This treatment option has helped them feel better than when they did in-center hemodialysis. Jorge says people on dialysis shouldn’t give up hope for a normal life. “Keep pushing forward and make it happen.”
Unlike some people who suddenly need dialysis, Jeff Stumpe had the rare opportunity to prepare and plan for home hemodialysis (HHD), a treatment option that his nephrologist of 10 years had recommended.
Jeff has polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a condition that is hereditary and can lead to end stage renal disease (ESRD), meaning dialysis or a kidney transplant is necessary to stay alive.
“I methodically went about equipping my dialysis room with everything from plumbing to a reclining desk/dialysis chair, home theater sound system... [I also] decided to pick up my electric guitar after a 15-year absence and added equipment and song books to provide new capabilities,” says Jeff.
Aside from getting his home ready for dialysis treatments, he also mapped out a schedule that allows him to keep his job. Once he gets home from work, Jeff and his wife—who is his HHD care partner—work together by prepping his treatment area, cooking dinner, going for a walk after dinner and then watching their favorite TV shows while he dialyzes.
He’s also had little trouble traveling for business or pleasure, as he is able to adjust his treatment schedule accordingly. Jeff says he’s experienced many of the benefits of HHD.
“The control, schedule flexibility, sense of accomplishment and empowerment that it provides [are reasons why I chose HHD],” says Jeff. “I now have an improved appetite, stable weight, improved energy and a more positive mental state.”
Jeff says much of his success on HHD is due to the training he did in the dialysis center with his home dialysis training team. If he had any trouble, he said the team would help him resolve it right away.
Soon after he began HHD, he took to DaVita.com and began posting his story to others in the forums. You can find and reply to his posts when you sign up for myDaVita.com. He also reviews his monthly labs using the DaVita Health Portal™ with his wife.
“We have a great ‘division of labor’ and she has done an excellent job and enjoys the portions for which she is responsible,” says Jeff. “She enjoys the often weekly rewards—eating dinner out on my week night treatment-off days.”
For Jeff, HHD has meant adapting and adjusting to a new way of life. He says he’s the self-driven type of person who enjoys the success in completing a task, which could be related to setting up, dialyzing and going on with the rest of one’s day.
“I believe that the best way to approach the ‘intrusion’ of HHD on your daily/weekly life, outside of its medical necessity for your health[is] to continue to do what you like to do [and] simply realize all of the time you spend sitting and can be turned into your treatment time,” says Jeff. “If you spend time paying bills online and viewing websites, watching television, reading magazines and newspapers or even playing the guitar, all of these things can and should be done while you have to remain seated for two to three hours. Constantly improving your pre- and post-treatment processes will give you back even more time… I rejoice in the fact that if some aspect of one of my [treatments] doesn't go as smoothly as planned, I'll have the opportunity the next day or the day after to get it right.”
"When you love someone, you are willing to make sacrifices for their care," said David Hatcher, Jr., care partner to his wife, Paz. She has chronic kidney disease (CKD) and has been on dialysis since 2001. She now receives home hemodialysis (HHD). Paz and David are grateful for her transition from in-center treatment to HHD.
Now Paz has more time to socialize with friends, garden at their California desert home and enjoy the pleasures of cooking.
When Paz went to the dialysis center, David said his wife rarely experienced any spontaneity. "HHD is more convenient, we set our own time and dialyzing at home is a more relaxed environment for her," he said.
The role of HHD care partner has changed David’s life, too. "I have to plan more for socializing with my friends." Although there is more planning involved for David’s outside activities, he says helping his wife is a priority.
"I think being my wife's care partner has brought us much closer," he said. "We no longer take each other for granted." And after being together for more than 30 years, David and Paz's motto continues to be, "Take life one day at a time."
Joseanna Butler is an active mother of two and grandmother of three who doesn’t let dialysis slow her down. Joseanna chose home hemodialysis (HHD) to fit treatments easily into her busy life without the need to schedule her activities around less flexible in-center dialysis treatments.
The HHD training that Joseanna received was detailed and thorough, and the care she receives from her healthcare team is top notch. She now enjoys the freedom to travel and pack her daily life full of fun activities.
“Our sons are football coaches at different schools,” she said. “We are able to attend games and activities for both sons, and we enjoy every minute and the fast pace. We have three wonderful grandchildren, and we are able to attend a play, lunch for grandparents or a sporting event. Regardless of the time, we can be there.
“The new machines make it possible to travel with ease either for a short visit with family or friends or on a long vacation. Home hemodialysis gave me the opportunity to open doors to freedom.”
Patsy Harvey is on home hemodialysis. Patsy has discovered the freedom—and newfound improved health—she gets from being a home dialysis patient.
At first it was upsetting for Patsy to accept that her kidney disease progressed to kidney failure, requiring dialysis treatments. "When I first learned I had to go on dialysis, I called my oldest daughter a little upset."
Her daughter reassured her that dialysis was for the best and that it would help with her ailing kidneys. Patsy knew dialysis was her only option, but to learn that home dialysis was available to her was encouraging.
"Now I can say home dialysis is good," said Patsy.
Patsy and Buck, her husband of more than 55 years, needed her to be on home dialysis to keep up with their busy schedule—because four daughters and 12 grandchildren are a lot of loved ones to visit! But Patsy and Buck wouldn’t have it any other way.
"Home dialysis has made it possible for us to live a normal life," Patsy said. Aside from their travels throughout Texas and New Hampshire to visit family and attend church, Patsy and her husband are season ticket holders to the Houston Astros and rarely miss watching their favorite team.
Patsy continues to enjoy doing the things that make her and her husband’s life fulfilling—and home hemodialysis has let them do just that.
Mike Swenton is a home hemodialysis (HHD) patient. He’s been on the treatment for nearly three years and has been doing great. His care partner, Harry Makara, shares a funny yet cautionary tale of their recent summer trip:
“Mike loves being at home for his treatments and his health has improved greatly while on HHD. One of the benefits of home dialysis is that it allows for more freedom to travel.
This past summer we packed up his NxStage equipment and headed for Busch Gardens® theme park in Virginia. After a four-hour drive, we checked into our hotel and I set up his machine. We stayed in that first night to get some rest before venturing out the next day.
The next morning we went to Busch Gardens. It was a very nice day and we had fun on the more tame rides (we left the roller coasters to the thrill-seekers). As the day went on the temperature grew warm, so we tried to see all the indoor shows and go on the inside rides. We were having such a good time that we didn't realize how hot it was outside.
When it started getting too hot we decided that we had had enough fun for one day. We returned to the hotel to rest.
I took Mike’s blood pressure and it was 209/107. He had no symptoms and said that he felt good.
Well, the next ride he went on happened to be on a chair in the emergency room! After a couple of hours in the ER, the doctor told us that Mike’s high blood pressure was most likely from the heat. Mike’s blood pressure eventually came down and the doctor released Mike that day.
But all was not lost! We went back to the park the next day when the weather cooled down and still had a great time.
So just a suggestion to home dialysis patients and care partners: Be aware of the high temperatures and stay hydrated when spending time outside, even as we transition into a new season—then go have fun.”
Earlier this year, Mike Snuffer traveled to three NASCAR® races held in Virginia, New Hampshire, and Tennessee. He also attended a Boy Scout camping trip with his children for two weeks straight. In addition, he’ll be driving from New Jersey to Idaho for his son’s wedding. Though Mike relies on dialysis to keep him alive, home hemodialysis (HHD) has improved his quality of life despite kidney failure.
“When I was an over-the-road truck driver, I’d be gone for weeks at a time,” said Mike. “It was great work and great freedom. I never thought I’d have that freedom again when the diabetes and heart attack caused me to lose my CDL license. I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive my truck, but at least I could drive my car, personal truck and trailer. Then, waking up in ICU with the emergency dialysis catheter in my neck hooked up to a machine, there was no way I thought I could travel again, not even to the store.”
When Mike’s kidneys shut down and he needed dialysis, he went to a center for dialysis treatments at first, but began training for HHD a few months later. The switch has helped Mike regain his appetite, travel on his own terms and build back the energy he lost when his health took a turn.
“The home dialysis program was terrific,” he said. “They gave me lots of information and I knew that I could just ask for help (which I did a lot those first couple weeks). There was always a plan B — whether it was a situation when my care partner was unavailable or I just needed a change of pace.”
Mike can now spend more time with his wife and children while he dialyzes.
“Another benefit of being home is that I can sit and watch movies, talk on the phone, play cards with my kids, all during my treatment,” he said.
Mike’s humor is intact as well. “And of course, since I can’t get up to get anything during treatment, my family gets to wait on me with every beck and call.”
Harry Pizutelli is a home hemodialysis patient and devoted husband and father who has worked as a professional in both corporate America and the private sector. He currently manages a program for the State of New Jersey that builds modular ramps for people with disabilities who want to work or continue their education.
“Home hemodialysis allows Harry more precious time together with his family and out with friends socially,” Harry’s wife and care partner said. “The flexibility of home hemo fits nicely with his very active lifestyle.”
In addition to working and hanging out with friends, Harry spends his time educating people who are interested in home dialysis.
“The beautiful nurses at the Plainfield, NJ, DaVita at Home center know that they can call Harry at anytime day or night to ask him to speak to someone who is inquiring about home hemodialysis or needs supports,” Harry’s wife said.
Harry also enjoys traveling. “Nick NxStage,” as he has affectionately named his home hemodialsyis machine, has traveled with him to the Jersey shore, on wine tasting getaways and plenty of weekend adventures.
“Now we just have to figure out how to get ‘Nick’ on that Jet Ski,” his wife said. “There’s no stopping Harry now.”
David Rosenbloom describes himself as a “pretty hard guy to knock down,” and his description is spot on. Since his kidneys failed, David has been on a quest to learn everything he can about his health and the options available to him so he can continue to live a full life.
David’s kidneys failed in June 2002, and he found out about his kidney problems only a month in advance. “I was a month away from a major heart attack, feeling terrible and having digestion problems,” David said.
When his doctors told him his kidneys had failed over a six-month period, even though he had no previous history of kidney disease, he was shocked. “It’s like somebody changed your body overnight, the body that you’re used to. All of a sudden, you can’t eat certain things, and you have no energy.” His doctors went on to explain that ultrasounds showed one of his kidneys was very small and scarred.
David first began in-center hemodialysis which he continued for three years until a trip to Washington state got him thinking about home hemodialysis (HHD).
“We went to visit family in Seattle, and home hemodialysis was very popular there,” he said. “My family wanted me to move up there and start home hemo.”
Once he began considering HHD, David approached the people at the University of Southern California dialysis clinic and told them he was interested. When he was first trained to do HHD, he learned to use a large dialysis machine like the ones in the center because smaller, portable machines were not yet common.
“I could walk into a clinic and attach someone to a machine today,” he joked, when talking about how thorough his training was.
David and his wife, who has been his care partner, learned to use the machine, and they were both immediately happier.
“I had my freedom, and I was feeling much better,” David said.
Not too long after he began his dialysis at home, David learned about the smaller, portable home dialysis machines new on the market and approached his doctor about switching to one. His doctor told him to go for it.
“I completed my training on the new machine in five days because I had a lot of experience already with a dialysis machine,” he said. “My wife and I were just laughing the whole time because the machine was so easy to use, and the directions were so clear. It’s like putting a load of clothes in the washer. That’s it.” Not to mention, David switched from the traditional three times per week treatments to the newer method of short daily treatments.
“Within about two or three weeks, I was feeling phenomenal, and I kept getting better and better and my blood kept getting cleaner and cleaner, and I started opening up my diet,” he said. “I have a tremendous amount of energy. I’m totally alert. We’ve reduced my blood pressure medicine, and I’m free to travel.”
David attributed his happiness on HHD to many things, one being his wife and care partner. They’ve been married for more than 39 years.
“I have a wonderful wife, a life partner,” he said. “I married my best friend, and when you have that kind of support, a lot of tough things are easier to do.”
“I really can’t recommend daily dialysis enough to everybody,” he said. “When you’re facing a disease like this, you have to make some major decisions about your life. Your options become fewer but they become clearer,” he said. “I’ve arrived at a state of equilibrium, which is really neat, and it’s really great. I enjoy life.”
In August 2008, David received a phone call that changed his life. He was told that he was to receive a kidney transplant. Since his transplant, David has become a full-time advocate for patients with kidney disease. His mission is to help patients become educated about their disease and the kidney transplant process. He has spoken to university students about his cause and hopes to continue teaching others about the importance of kidney disease awareness and treatment options.
David has also published his memoir, "Becoming Me." His book gives a look at how he coped with kidney disease, his time on dialysis and life with a new kidney.
Rudolph Hofheinz is an active home hemodialysis (HHD) patient who was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD) over three years ago. Years before being diagnosed with kidney failure, Rudolph had a combined surgery of over 20 hours to repair a tear in his heart. The doctor told his wife and pastor he had a 15 percent chance of surviving the intensive surgery. Miraculously, Rudolph endured, but had to spend three months in the hospital and another three months in physical therapy to regain movement in his arms and legs.
Rudolph’s chronic kidney disease was diagnosed after all the pain he had already gone through with his heart surgery. But the discovery and ability to use home hemodialysis has helped Rudolph maintain a life of travel and time spent with those he cares about most.
“After 3 weeks of HHD training, I started HHD at my home and I felt much better after a week,” said Rudolph. “[I] enjoyed picking my treatment times and being able to travel. I did so well, my doctor cut my [dialysis] days from six to five.”
Since then, Rudolph and his wife (who is his home hemodialysis care partner) have traveled throughout the eastern United States to visit family in North Carolina and Virginia. He and his wife also made time to visit Panama City, FL, for a week-long vacation. His home dialysis fluids were conveniently delivered to the couple’s resort.
“I love the flexibility HHD provides me,” said Rudolph. “I recommend HHD to anyone who has a willing and able partner. The benefits of health, enjoying life more, enjoying more types of food previously restricted; [these] are paramount reasons to enjoy HHD.”
Although Rudolph is recovering from a broken hip, he says he looks forward to playing with his grandchildren and getting back onto the golf course.
Rudolph says simply, “Life is good, very good.”
Eula Keys of Houston, Texas inherited nephrotic syndrome and has been on dialysis since 1994. In 2008, Eula discovered the "JOY" in home hemodialysis (HHD).
"'J' stands for feeling 'joyous' at home," she says. "I have control of my environment; I have everything I need and want by my side while doing my treatments. 'O' means that ‘overall’ my health is better. My labs are great, I don’t have high blood pressure, I’m losing weight and I’m looking and feeling 95 percent better. And 'Y' stands for I 'yet' have a life to live for the first time since I was diagnosed with kidney failure. I have true joy."
Since starting HHD, Eula has more flexibility to attend the activities she loves. "I can go to bible study, shows and family events," she explains. "I don't say, 'That's my dialysis day, so I can't go.' At home I do my treatments later or early in the day, on my own time — it's about me. I don’t have a schedule to adhere to compared to traditional in-center treatments."
Eula says patients who dialyze in a center should consider a home dialysis treatment because of the health and lifestyle benefits. "A better quality of life is waiting for you," she says. "To all patients, check out the other treatments available. Home hemodialysis works for me but it may not work for you. But don’t say you can’t until you try to do it! You have one life to live, so live it to the fullest."
Annette Davenport is married and a mother of two children. She is also a home hemodialysis patient. When Annette began dialysis, she was going to school, working, taking care of her family and going to a dialysis center for hemodialysis three times a week. However, the schedule at the dialysis clinic was restrictive and did not allow her to schedule her treatments around her daily obligations.
“I had no room in my life for dialysis, not including I was in denial about starting dialysis,” she said. “When I first started dialysis it completely drained me. It left me with no energy at all. I couldn’t do the normal things that I was used to doing with my children and at home.”
Annette began researching kidney disease and the different types of dialysis in an effort to learn something that would help her get her energy back. She was used to leading an active life and being able to keep up with her kids and wasn’t willing to settle for anything less than that.
“I wanted to continue to live my life without any interruptions from dialysis,” she said. “So, I started to do searches on the Internet about home dialysis treatments and other dialysis options.”
That’s when she came across DaVita.com and began reading about home dialysis and the many lifestyle and clinical benefits it brings to people’s lives.
“Thank God I came across DaVita® and all the wonderful options DaVita offers patients,” she said.
After learning about the various options available to her, Annette called a DaVita representative.
“After that phone call, my life has changed for the better, forever,” she said. “Now I see that I have more energy, stamina, my skin has improved and things in my personal life have changed dramatically for the better.”
“Now, I set my treatments around my life, not my life around my treatments,” she said. “Thanks to DaVita, I now have my life back.”
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