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The Silver Lining of being a Dialysis Patient
Article posted in: Dialysis


If you are a dialysis patient, you may feel that it is hard to sit still for hours.  But Dr. Jenna Henderson knows how to take her mind off the process, and in this post, she shares some interesting insights and perspectives she gained as a dialysis patient. This is her story and is intended for informational and educational purposes only.

Sitting for Dialysis

“What do you do to relieve the boredom of 3 and a half hour on the machine?”  This is a question many people have asked me over the years and it used to really annoy me.  As a kidney patient I fought long and hard to avoid dialysis for my very survival.  Once I was a dialysis patient there were complications and I had to continue to fight on.  People who thought the lack of entertainment was my biggest problem, well they sure didn’t get it.  One has to work through fear, frustration and anger before their biggest concern is boredom.

But like most patient I did work through the fear.  The compassion of the nurses helped tremendously, but also I found a new perspective on life. Dialysis means a lot of time for nothing.  Outside the clinic the world is moving at a frenetic pace, but in the clinic it’s often still.The silence is often as frightening as any part of the experience.  And it was out of those quiet moments that I found a new sense of purpose and clarity.  There’s no multi-tasking and no interruptions during treatment.  All a patient has to do is rest and allow the treatment go on.

The Dialysis Routine

Like so many dialysis patients keeping up with the activities of daily living has been a challenge.  Now that I have a routine of complementary medicine that helps keep my energy level up, it’s much easier.  But 15 years ago, before I was a physician and facing dialysis for the first time, it was a struggle to get through the day.  Normal people could work a 40 hour week and then take care of their families.  For the dialysis patient just doing the basics to get through the day can be a challenge.  Time and again I’d have to rest in the middle of day because my energy ran out.

In the dialysis clinic there was no more rushing toward deadlines, no more worries about getting it all done.  The small concerns of life dropped by the wayside.   Well-meaning people went to great lengths to find activities for me to do while on dialysis, but this was entirely unnecessary.I wasn’t looking for more distractions.  Simply resting and regaining my strength was good enough.

The Silver Line

It was out of those quiet moments that I found a new resolve to further my education and work with kidney patients.  Once I felt grounded and centered,the fear of dialysis subsided.  After the fear there was a newfound curiosity.  I started to ask more questions about the dialysis process and read a biography of the man who invented the dialysis machine.  Dialysis had changed me but some of those changes were actually positive.

Today I’m still on dialysis and while my energy level is good enough to run a medical practice, I still need a time out.  My time on the machine has become that time out.  While I could keep my cell phone on, often I turn it off and take a nap.  During the day I’m taking care of patients,but when I go to the dialysis clinic in the evening, I can rest and a let the nurses take care of me.  My best insights as a doctor have come through the experience of being a patient.  On dialysis I never have to worry about losing touch with being the patient.

Every Journey is Unique

Every patient has their own experience with dialysis and for most of us we go through a lot of different emotions.  But rather than filling up the time with distractions, we can actually take a moment for introspection and discover what’s really important to us in life.  For me it was realization of how much I valued learning and education.  For others it’s a realization of how precious their time with family is or the places they’d like to see in this lifetime.

On dialysis I can fill the time with basic cable t.v. and surfing the web on my cell phone and that’s fine.  And sometimes I can’t find anything good to watch.  Suddenly I realize, I’m bored.  But boredom is a luxury.  No one has ever been bored to death.  Boredom means your life overall is engaging and it’s just a pause before you move onto the next activity that you find interesting.  If you’re comfortable and content enough to be bored, it’s  actually a good sign.