Hemodialysis Treatment for Kidney Failure
After nearly dying from a three-year-long battle with chronic kidney disease (CKD), my kidneys failed completely. In April 2022, I started hemodialysis and recovered to a point where I felt "normal" again. Hemodialysis is a lifelong commitment. Once the kidneys have failed, It's up to dialysis with an artificial kidney filter to clean your blood.
Dialysis treatments for kidney failure3 vary, such as:
- home hemodialysis
- home peritoneal dialysis
- kidney transplant
- in treatment center, overnight hemodialysis
- in treatment center, 4 hours a day, 3 days a week
I chose the one considered to be the gold standard treatment, which is in treatment center hemodialysis, in a chair, hooked up by professionals, carefully monitored, hemodialysis, 4 hours a day, 3 days a week.
All treatments are boring and uncomfortable. This is something you just have to live with.
No Twiddling of Thumbs! What to Do?
The biggest, most annoying thing about in-center hemodialysis is boredom! The second most annoying thing is how cold it is in the centers. They keep the room temperature around 65° to 68° Fahrenheit. They do this for the comfort of the staff, as they must wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and must avoid overheating. The nurses and technicians are busy little bees! However, it is a challenge for the patients to keep warm.
Blankets for Hemodialysis
The first thing to include in your “go-to bag” is a nice warm blanket! I found that a regular blanket or plush throw is still not warm enough.
With the permission of the charge nurse, I ordered a battery-operated heated blanket available on Amazon. These are also found by searching for "camping blankets" or "USB-powered electric blankets." Seriously, I did not know that portable electric blankets existed! I can now say that this "electric" blanket is the best thing I have ever tried!
Some centers offer heated chairs! I am jealous.
How to Manage Comfort and Boredom
My hemodialysis center sent me instructions for my first visit. They suggested I bring a blanket and something to do. The methods they recommended were vague. They also recommended that I bring nothing to eat or drink. This suggestion is not set in stone, I see patients eating small snacks and drinking beverages4, although the person in charge frowns upon it.
The center also advised me to bring earphones. My center has personal televisions for each chair. Since they also offer high-speed internet, I usually bring my Fire Tablet and phone.
The only edible thing I bring is a bag of cough drops, or sugar-free hard candy. These help with “dry mouth.”
What to Pack in Your “Go-To Bag”
- A heated blanket throw that runs on a rechargeable battery. You cannot bring a plug in. An acceptable alternative is a plush blanket that is thick enough to keep you warm.
- Fire tablet, or equivalent internet-enabled tablet
- Headphones - or, if you prefer, earphones
- Cough drops or sugar-free hard candy
I rarely use the Fire tablet, but bring it anyway. I will occasionally watch a movie, but playing games is impossible.
The blood coming and going is occupying my left arm, and the right arm is occupied by a blood pressure cuff. I must sit very still to get an accurate blood pressure reading.
Game shows on the personal TV channel keep me occupied occasionally.
Go to Sleep if You Can
The most effective thing to do to make the time go faster in a dialysis chair is to sleep!
Unfortunately, I have been unable to nod off with all the alarm bells, pressure cuffs, and nurse rounds where they pass out your meds, and/or give you a vaccination, or give you iron infusions, or just generally check up on you.
I will try to sleep because it is the fastest way to pass the time. Benadryl will help you nod off for a bit.
Almost all medicines will "wash out" in your artificial kidney while you are sitting there, so sleeping pills of any kind may not help.
One Good Method of Alleviating Boredom, or Not
During middle school, I read a book that has stayed with me all of my life. Written by Joseph Heller, Catch-221 has arguably been crowned the very best novel about WWII. In my opinion, it is one of the best novels of all time.
In the book is a character named Dunbar. He actively cultivates boredom to make his life seem longer.
If you like to read, I recommend reading books during dialysis, and I heartily recommend doing this.
Get a Kindle tablet (or equivalent) and choose to enroll in audiobooks. Even turning pages during treatment can disturb your blood pressure readings. This causes an alarm to go off, and a nurse or tech hurrying over to see if things are all right.
You Can Do This!
Good luck with your hemodialysis recovery; I hope these tips will help you alleviate some of the boredom that comes with having to sit so still.
Do you have any tips from your experience? You are welcome to share them by contacting me.
My contact link is below my photo (Lela).
Resources and References
- Catch-22 Included with a free trial (Audible Books on Amazon)
- How to overcome boredom quiz compiled by me and Google Search
- Kidney disease and dialysis information - DaVita.com
- A special note on drinking fluids - Fresenius Kidney Care (Dialysis Center), recommends a limit of 32 ounces of fluid daily, or no more than 4, 8 ounce size drinking glasses
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2022 Lela