Blog post

Confessions of a first-time dialysis patient — Week 3

Steve Winfree of Knoxville, Tennessee chronicles his first month on dialysis.
Steve Winfree with a nurse

I wanted to use this week's blog entry to talk about some of the different ways I have used to get through a dialysis visit, as well as different struggles we face. As you go into week 3, there are a few things that you will notice have changed. One of those is the size of the needle used for your fistula. Within the first month of dialysis, you will gradually increase your needle size as your fistula becomes more mature and can handle increased blood flow. Now, before you get too worried about the increases in needle size, please know that you truly cannot feel a difference.

As I went into week 3 of dialysis, I began to feel a little more confident in the process and my handling of the mental aspect. I have gotten to know my nurses and have begun developing some relationships with other patients while in the lobby waiting to be taken back. I highly encourage you to get to know others who are going through the same journey as you. You would be amazed at how calming and relaxing on the mind it can be to hear others say, "I know exactly how you feel. Me too!"

The dialysis center can be a very somber place and that can really affect you mentally if you allow it. While you want to be respectful of others who are trying to sleep, make sure you engage with the nurses. I can tell that the nurses care about my wellbeing and I am extremely grateful for that. In return, I always try to strike up a conversation and ask how they are and let them know how much I appreciate them. The nurses make or break a visit to the dialysis clinic. Their smiles and laughter can change the vibe for the better and make things much easier to get through.

I highly recommend a good book and headphones so you can use your cell phone. It helps pass the time if you would just like to keep to yourself. In a dialysis center it is not uncommon to feel cold and slightly nauseated depending on how fast your blood is being pulled and the fluid being taken out. You should bring a pen and paper as well if you would like to write as you dialyze. Writing is a great way to cope with the mental aspect and allows you to get your feelings out on paper. It is OK to be angry, sad, worried and nervous about being in a dialysis clinic.

You will have people in your life who do not understand what you are going through, cannot see that inside you are in pain and hurting, or cannot fully grasp the fact that kidney failure is very hard to deal with. You cannot typically look at somebody and tell that they are on dialysis. Now, that can be good and help if you feel self-conscious about being sick. However, it can prove to be slightly challenging when you are trying to get somebody to understand that you do not feel good and are not doing well even though you "look fine."

It is not that people with kidney failure want people to feel sorry for us, it is just that sometimes we need people to acknowledge that what we are going through is not good, but we are troopers. Some people want to do everything they can to keep our mindsets away from the negative. This is good, but it is also healthy to allow a person on dialysis to vent every so often. If you face this issue, I would highly recommend reaching out to other people living with kidney disease on sites like the American Kidney Fund Facebook page.

As I conclude week 3, I want to remind everybody that you can be the most inspirational person a stranger could meet that day. While we appreciate the help and sincerity from others who want to help us feel better, we also have the experience and tribulations to be inspirational and motivating to others who need it. Remember, Superman may wear a cape and fly, but he never fought kidney disease and dealt with dialysis like you are. Love who you are, accept who you have become, and learn to appreciate the fact you are strong enough to fight and share your story!


Steve Winfree

Steve Winfree of Knoxville, Tennessee, is chronicling his first month on dialysis for Kidney Today. For more information on what to expect in the first month of dialysis, visit the American Kidney Fund’s FIRST30 resource center.