Life challenges • Three patients share their stories of needing a kidney.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The soft continuous whir and occasional dings emitted from the dialysis machines fill the air at the Liberty Dialysis Center as three patients with as many reasons for renal failure, at three stages in the donor recipient process, all hope for a donor's gift to remove the shackles of dialysis.
"I have a cellphone, and I keep it on all the time and a bag packed," said Chris Yamamoto, who has been on the donor recipient list a year now.
There are 667 people in the state who are waiting for a transplant of some kind. Of those, 425 are waiting for a kidney, said Dixie Madsen of Intermountain Donor Services. Utah is part of the Good Samaritan Kidney Donation Program. In 2011, 69 people gave kidneys to someone in Utah, freeing recipients from the restrictions of dialysis. Sixty-two of those organs were donated through Intermountain Donor Services.
The time for a donor recipient to receive a kidney is about a year to 18 months.
"My time is now," Yamamoto said. "[I'm] anxious, a little scared, but the benefits once I get it" will lift some of the restrictions the dialysis imposes.
"It's a challenge," he said.
When it comes to eating, everything has flipped.
"First, you have to follow a strict diabetic diet, then you have to follow a strict dialysis diet."
Yamamoto works to support his wife and six children, but his challenges don't stop there. He and his wife are blind, but they remain self-reliant, using public transportation to get around. The couple believe in giving back to the community by helping blind youth reach their potential.
A gift of a new kidney will allow the Yamamotos to continue to give back to the community and enjoy family as well as venture out and travel more.
"I went to Dallas," Yamamoto said. "It wasn't fun for her or me. We couldn't enjoy it."
With travel time and dialysis treatments in the Dallas-Forth Worth area, the couple only had two complete days to explore the area.
"The first thing I'm going to do is book a tour," said Pat Cuevas, who has always wanted to travel, too.
She hopes a donor will bring freedom from the diet and fluid restrictions and the nine-hour nightly dialysis treatments.
Cuevas'kidneys failed in July 2010 because of an unusually large kidney stone she describes it as "egg size." From that moment, she was plunged into the restrictive nature of the disability and tied to a dialysis machine for four hours three days a week.
"It drains you," Cuevas said. Her normal activities like volunteering at the Ogden Regional Hospital became more difficult to continue. Her life started revolving only around her treatments. That is when she started seeking alternative methods.
One alternative allows Cuevas to undergo treatments in the privacy of her own home. She gets ready for bed and sleeps during her required treatment. Peritoneal dialysis treatments work in sync with a patient's natural biochemistry. A stent is placed in the stomach's peritoneal lining, where fluids naturally accumulate. She removes waste buildup and fluid daily.
It's actually easier on your system, Cuevas said. "At the same time it takes a lot of motivation and dedication."
Cuevas, along with her son, became certified to use the in-home dialysis treatments. She is now patient and nurse. She still goes to the clinic twice a month, so they can monitor her lab results and diet restrictions. The new treatment allows her some semblance of normalcy.
"I'm able to do what I want to do,"she said.
Chuck Brown also strives to rise above the restrictions that the dialysis places on him by playing rugby every Saturday and basketball on Wednesday. "It helps me feel normal," Brown said. "It's a good exercise for me."
Brown hopes a donor's gift will give him more time with his family, to travel and to play sports with his son. He was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a common disease that prevents the kidneys' filtering system from working.
He watches sports and talks with his son to ease the thrice-weekly, three-hour dialysis sessions.
Dialysis affects every facet of life from family to careers.
"It's hard to find a job that will allow you to take the time off for dialysis," he said.
The biggest obstacle preventing Brown from appearing on the donor recipient list is a simple dental exam. Right now, Medicare takes care of the medical expenses; once he receives his dental benefits in a year, he will be eligible to be on the donor list.
Life is full of obstacles, but Brown's optimism shows through when he is talking about his future with his family.
"I have one on the way in October," he said.