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Meet Julie: Employed and on Peritoneal Dialysis

"I guess the best piece of advice [that] I've gotten about being successful in life and having a good long life was just thinking about my health…and always trying to put that first," says Julie of Houston, Texas.

It is good advice for someone as active as Julie. She has a full-time job, enjoys fly fishing, and regularly attends concerts and theater productions. The advice to stay healthy is vital for Julie, too, particularly because she has kidney disease and is now on dialysis.

Learning about kidney disease at 16

When Julie was 16, a routine blood test showed that she had an abundance of protein in her urine. After a few more tests, she was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, a disease that causes the kidneys to become inflamed. For the last 30 years, Julie has lived with the disease before it finally debilitated her kidney function and she was told she required dialysis.

But that hasn’t stopped her from continuing to live her life just as she did before dialysis. Julie represents a growing trend among dialysis patients taking charge of their life and not letting kidney disease define who they are or what they can do. For Julie, it meant staying at her job as a marketing and communications director for a national hospitality organization. Since she began dialysis two years ago, Julie has continued to spend her days traveling to schools and classrooms, educating kids on proper nutrition and eating right as part of her company’s focus on school food service programs across the country. She then spends her night dialyzing in the comfort of her home while she sleeps. Quitting her job was never an option.

"My goal was to keep working and to keep up my regular lifestyle," says Julie. "I was determined, no matter what, that I wouldn't quit my job or leave my job and it wouldn't be a problem for me, and I would just have to figure out a way to do this dialysis when I wasn't working.… Going onto [peritoneal dialysis] was just a natural fit for me."

In addition to choosing a dialysis treatment she can perform at home, such as peritoneal dialysis (PD), Julie has utilized DaVita resources, including cooking some of the more than 800 kidney-friendly recipes found on DaVita.com and attending Kidney SmartSM education classes with her sister.

Building her support network

Throughout her journey, Julie has found support from family, friends and the DaVita staff in Houston.

"The Houston DaVita community is really a small community of lots of great and wonderful people," says Julie. "When you go into the clinic, it's like you're the center of attention…The service that you get is just very comprehensive and if I could ask for one more thing out of DaVita, I guess it would be to just get the word out to other folks as much as possible, because it really, for me, has just lessened the burden of this whole illness and made it something that is just another thought of the day. It's not the main thought of the day—it's just another thing that I do in my day. It's all that comprehensive care that I'm getting that makes it that way."

Taking charge of her life

Julie says dialysis has helped her take control of her life.

"To me, dialysis means health and freedom,” says Julie. "It's what keeps me ticking every day and keeps me healthy. So it's very important to me but it doesn't control me. It allows me to have the freedom that I need to live a happy and healthy lifestyle."