I Keep On truckin’

By Denny Burgess

I’m Denny, a happy trucker, and a dialysis patient for the past 32 years. I’ve been dealing with kidney problems since the day I was born.

I had my first surgery at age one: nephrostomy tubes were placed in my kidneys to remove urine. I had several surgeries attempting to solve my bladder obstruction problem that was impacting my kidneys. When I started school at age 5, I had a suprapubic tube in my bladder and a drainage bag strapped to my leg. That is a story
in itself!

At age 12, I had a urostomy and had my right kidney removed. As a teenager, I had multiple bowel obstructions and associated problems, and my urostomy had to be redone. This is how my younger years went.

Skipping ahead through more surgeries and infections, at age 29 I started dialysis. This was in 1986, when there weren’t any centers, so patients either did home dialysis or drove hours each way. I chose home dialysis, and it was a great decision. I had to learn everything about dialysis, from medications and what they were for, to diet, to fluid intake, and then on to the external machinery I was using.

In 1993, my sister Jodi gave me a kidney. Sadly, it ruptured after the second day so I never got off dialysis. Shortly afterward, I started doing nocturnal home hemodialysis. This was great! I was able to use nocturnal dialysis for nine years until the clinic decided to upgrade my machine. Oops, the new technology didn’t work for me. Luckily, by this time there were dialysis treatment centers everywhere. The one I went to was just 15 miles away, and I am writing this from there now.

Back to boyhood: all I ever wanted to do was drive a semi and be out on the open road. With all my kidney troubles, no one thought it was possible, including me. After I finished high school, I attended a vocational training school for diesel truck mechanics so I would be close to the semi trucks. During the time I was there, I visited my urologist and he asked me what I was doing. When I told him, his response was, “Didn’t you want to drive?” I responded, “I didn’t think you would approve because the trucks ride so rough.” His answer: “As long as you don’t load and unload, I don’t see a problem!”

That was all it took. My life-long dream came true. The first seven years were great, then dialysis slowed me down a bit but didn’t stop me. After morning dialysis, I would spend the rest of that day and the next day driving in the truck, get home the second night, get a good night’s sleep, and start dialysis the next morning. The routine worked.

Along with all of my medical issues and my career travels, I truly love music. With the kidney troubles, I could never play sports as a student. My Dad taught me how to play guitar when I was about 10, and the instrument was my best friend through high school and on. My guitar went with me in the truck, and any spare time I had it was in my hands. I got pretty good at it, if I do say so myself. I’ve been in multiple bands from the time I was 15 years old.

For the past 14 years, my wife Marcia and I have used her homestead barn to sponsor barn dances from April to October. We call our event the Lighthouse Opry Barn Dance. Some time during my active career and musical endeavors, Marcia and I had a boy – Chad is 34 years old now. I remarried and have a stepdaughter Krista who is 24. Between them, I have three grandchildren.

I would have missed so many things in life if not for dialysis. As a young boy, I often wondered why I had to deal with so many problems. Now, as I’ve gone through life and seen many friends and family pass, I wonder: why am I still here enjoying life?

Don’t ever let life pass you by, and never give up on your dreams! Put your seatbelt on, the road of life is bumpy and full of great adventures. Enjoy the ride!


Denny Burgess is a retired trucker. He lives with his wife in Gilman, Iowa.

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