Dialysis and the Necessities

Update 9/15/12: I am re-posting this while I work on my next posting, the third (and final) in the series about “Dialysis and the Procedure” that describes the dialysis treatment cycle.  Also, if you are reading for pleasure today, visit my other blog “LegacyTales” where I wax eloquent about my days growing up as a military brat and being witness to some very exciting moments in history. 

If you’re new to dialysis or relatively new, you may be interested in some suggestions about all the paraphernalia that can be helpful while your spend a good portion of your week at in-center dialysis.

There are generally three shifts in a dialysis unit. The first starts about 6am, the second about 11 and the third  at 4 pm.  Some units have an overnight shift.  Also, dialysis days are either Monday, Wednesday and Friday or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I go to second shift from 11am to 4pm on M-W-F.  What you bring may depend on which shift.

The items I take with me to dialysis include a lunch in an insulated  six pack carrier, a neck pillow, a blanket, an exercise pad that I use on the chair, and  my tablet computer (see “Dialysis and Social Networking” for more about the tablet. Along with the pad, I have a set of noise cancelling headphones. It’s quite an array of stuff and I look like a homeless person carrying it all in but it’s what I find I need. Most items fit in an athletic bag.

The blanket is necessary because often the treatment area is kept cooler and kidney patients are often cold due to anemia.  From the American Association of Kidney Patients article titled “How CKD Affects Your Body“: “Anemia can cause a pale complexion, weakness, reduced exercise ability and a general feeling of poor well-being. Some patients say, “I feel cold all the time.””  I am cold even in a warm room especially if my anemia is high. But lately it’s been within good levels, so I don’t feel cold as much and don’t need the blanket but I keep it handy anyway.  I actually have two blankets.  One is a heavy fleece and the other a lighter one.  I use the heavy one more often and the light one as a backup and depending on the air temp in the center. I selected the color red because it wouldn’t show the blood in case it got some on it.  (I try to think of all eventualities!)

I have a gymnastics exercise pad that I use to place on the chair. I purchased it at a local sporting good store.  I used to have a  thinner yoga pad but after four years of use it lost its resiliency. It served me well.  The gymnastics pad is very thick, about two inches, and pretty rigid compared to the yoga pad. It folds instead of rolls because it’s so rigid.  But at 24 inches by 72 inches it exactly fits in the chair and doesn’t slide around after several hours. Some treatment chairs are pretty old and the extra support of the  thicker pad makes me feel more comfortable.  I’ve seen some people just cover the chair with a blanket and many use nothing at all.   The pad, like everything else is optional at your discretion.

Our center allows us to eat while under-going treatment.  Some centers don’t which really riles me but that’s a posting for another day.  I usually have a lunch of a sandwich, some carrots, celery, or other veggie, a small bottle of water, and an apple.  I also add something else as a snack for that last hour. I find the last hour the most challenging and I use the snack as my treat for getting through to it.  I tell myself, “Just wait until 3 pm and you can have your snack!” May seem strange but it works.

I use a neck pillow from my commuting days on the airlines.  It’s compact and able to fit in my carry bag but some use regular bed pillows.  It’s a matter of what you prefer.  It has a  cover that can be removed and washed.  It’s really held up to continued use and show little sign of wear after many years. I can only assume buying the brand name Samsonite was worth it. On the few occasions that I’ve fallen asleep without the neck pillow, my neck hurts.  So, it does the job as designed and it’s worth it.

I have a  tablet/pad computer that I use. (For more about that, see “Dialysis and Social Networking“)  We also have personal televisions with basic cable but I prefer my pad so I can connect with the world and play games like Solitare, Coin Dozer, Scrabble, etc.  I can also Tweet and do email and such.  I use the TV as a prop to hold my pad while I work on it. However, when I do watch TV, I really appreciate the Turner Movie Channel because it’s entertaining and doesn’t have commercials.  Curiously though I find myself getting addicted to some of the most inane TV programs on Bravo.  I mean like “Million Dollar Listing LA”?  It’s a soap opera at its worst but lately I found myself watching it episode after episode as the channel ran back-to-back reruns.  The Olympics was a pleasant distraction from the usual fare.  I just have to wait four more years before that’ll happen again!  Music servers on the internet like Pandora are handy.  It allows a wide range of musical selections and in my case, “Music Soothes the Savage Soul” is very accurate.   I can really get lost in some music from my younger years. Reading books on my pad is something I just don’t get into.  But I hold that in reserve in case I can’t find anything else to do.  Twitter occupies much of my time.

The headphone headset I use is noise cancelling which is pretty handy in a treatment setting.  There are often many conversations, alarms and other noises going on and it can be very distracting.  I use the headset for the TV and for my pad when I’m listening to music on it. On the rare occasion that I want to sleep in relative quiet, the headset gives me what I need by cancelling out the ambient noise.  A pair of earplugs might do the same thing.  I’ve also seen some people wear sleeping masks to cover their eyes which is helpful . I keep one in my bag in case I need it.

For clothing, I wear a pair of large sweat pants so I have room to move around in them and they don’t bind up after several hours of squirming.  Generally I suggest you wear old clothing since there’s always a chance you’ll get blood on them.  One guarantee I will pop a leak after my treatment is to wear a new shirt or pants. Never fails!  So  I wear old clothes so it’s not a problem if it happens.  Many who go to treatment from work don’t have much choice but I had one friend who changed out of work clothes and into sweats before treatment.

I’m sure I’ve missed something in this and other patients have some good suggestions.  Feel free to offer yours in the comments below.

© 2012 DevonTexas

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About DevonTexas

I am a person with ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease) which means my kidneys don't work. Forty or so years ago that would have been a death sentence but today there is Dialysis which means I can be hooked up to a machine that will clean my blood as the kidneys should. Three days a week, I go to a center and have too very large needles stuck in my arm to remove and replace my blood as it passes through a process where it's cleaned and the fluid is removed, a process taking a little over four hours each time. I want to advance knowledge about dialysis so that other patients can learn from my experience and mistakes. We shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel, eh? There is so much to be learned and experienced about our predicament. There are vast resources available to support us and enrich our lives but many patients don't know about them. There are also many issues that we have to deal with whether we want to or not. So I blog about them. All comments are confidential until I approve them. If you don't want your comment public, let me know and I will respect that. So, feel free to leave a comment. Enjoy.
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3 Responses to Dialysis and the Necessities

  1. cattlekid says:

    I had the same amount of gear when I did in-center dialysis. I usually dialyzed at a for-profit center , so I had to bring everything including my own water (god forbid, they would give away water and a cup)! Once, I got to dialyze at a not-for-profit center. I brought in my own blanket and pillow as usual and I got strange looks from the other patients. I get into the treatment area and am handed my own pillow and as many warm blankets as I wanted. I was also offered my choice of coffee, tea, water or ice chips. Maybe DaVita and FMC need to stop paying their executives huge sums of money and start treating their patients like human beings.

  2. Oh man, reading this just makes me happy regarding the NHS in the UK. Our dialysis centre is funded by the govenment, so we don’t pay. We just turn up. The centre provides us to tea, sandwiches and biscuits and water if you want. They also provide blankets, and you get your own TV with freeview. It strange how it different in other places. As well I tend to wear baggy clothes, never jeans or shirt, you want to be comfortable for the 4 hours sessions

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