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Kidney failure sucks, and it isn’t just like TV

I have noticed this trend with all series that somehow manage to fit in a storyline involving someone suffering from kidney failure, desperately needing to find a kidney match, and then some magic person coming out of nowhere, being a perfect match, and in a week everything is just dandy and the kidney issue is never brought up again.

It is so freaking annoying to see this as someone who lives with and cares for a dialysis patient. This is what they don’t show you:

  • The cold, tired people sitting in uncomfortable chairs, covered with blankets and hooked up to machines at the dialysis clinic.
  • The way a bacterial infection can completely overthrow the entire immune system.
  • Vomit and diarrhea, since the toxins no longer exit through the urinary tract.
  • Fingernails so thick and so shaped like tubes that they become too unusable to even button or zip a jacket.
  • Not knowing what in the hell is safe to eat, and not having the energy to prepare anything that isn’t heat-and-eat.
  • The stress and frustration, grant applications and constant communications with social workers to make sure things are covered and bills are paid.
  • Concern trolls telling you that they can help you with their magical holistic and herbal remedies.
  • The length of time it takes to be on the waiting list for a transplant.
  • The body rejecting a kidney and the transplant being worthless.

We haven’t experienced the latter two. My mother, who is 67, made the decision a long time ago that she would remain on dialysis and not receive a kidney. I and the family stand by her decision, as it is a very personal one to make. But it means that for the rest of her life, the rest of the list is how we will deal with life. And that’s just a fraction of it. I wish it were so simple as finding a kidney match. You have to consider your lifestyle, age, all other ailments. And all these plastic, fake women on television just suffer kidney failure for like two seconds without even grasping the essence of what it is.

I don’t ever write stuff like this for the pity or for support, I write it because it is my reality. I consider it an honor to be my mother’s caregiver. I just have the frustration of being unable to describe to others what this experience is actually like.

But I know I’m not the only one, and it applies to lots of health problems and the way they are treated – not just in the media but by the public. We need a bit more understanding and less fluff.

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  • Judy maharrey February 11, 2015, 8:09 pm

    I agree with you so much. Some media romanisize this condition and others with no thought of what really happens.

  • Mary Beth Elderton
    February 12, 2015, 8:26 am

    *sigh* Yes. Thank you for saying this.

  • Linda Manns Linneman February 27, 2015, 4:31 pm

    I am so sorry for you, your mother and your family. I will be praying for you all. God Bless

  • Debbie Snell March 1, 2015, 9:48 am

    Wow I knew by the title it was going to be a dose of reality and it was raw and a bit scary as hubbys kidneys are at 30% and declining and been told at 57 too old for a transplant if needed. Does it scare me? Yes. Does it suck? Yes but I would rather read your true reality and help him deal with whatever comes so thanks for being honest.

  • Dianna Davis March 13, 2015, 7:14 pm

    Yes it is so hard. I have gone through this with my ex- husband , who passed away yesterday. Thanks for bringing his up. Some people just don’t unstand

  • Sherri March 15, 2015, 7:08 pm

    My best friend has kidney failure as a result of diabetes. She has dialysis 3 days a week, minimum. It is so hard to see her go through it.


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