Planning, Practice and Preparedness; it’s all in the “P’s”!

By Heather Powell

Planning, Practice and Preparedness Dialysis

There are a couple of different treatment options for kidney failure. You want to choose the one that best fits your lifestyle. I chose to do home hemodialysis as it gives me more freedom during the week. Choosing to take treatment home can seem daunting. Throw in an emergency situation and it can quickly cause anyone to lose control. Being prepared is the key, I’ve found, to reducing anxiety and taking care of my health needs. Planning, practicing, and preparing helps me deal with sticky situations that can easily turn into emergencies, and keeps being at home exactly what I want it to be, a blessing.

There are many kinds of emergencies: man-made, medical, and natural. By definition, an emergency is serious and unexpected. Often it’s dangerous and requires immediate action. We need to be educated about our treatment, our body, and the machine so we are ready to face such situations.

When you choose to do dialysis in your home, you don’t need an emergency to feel unable to cope. However, the more you know the better off you will be. Practice, in this case, definitely makes perfect. Practice, practice, practice until it becomes second nature. I am blessed to share a home with my parents, so I have two caregivers who have learned the Nxstage machine with me. Ask your home clinic to provide you with a booklet on emergencies and how to respond. Find out, for example, about:

  • how to manually get off the machine if the power goes out
  • what to do if there is a leak
  • dealing with bleeding that won’t stop or air in the line
  • how to deal with alarms and what constitutes an emergency versus just something to be cautious about

We review this information, discuss it, and role play through “what if” situations so it is all fresh in our minds. We do this often in order to remember the information.

In case of a medical emergency, it is recommended that you call 911 immediately. You are the expert on your body, so get to know it. Know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, stroke, or getting too dry too fast. We keep a laminated page of important contact numbers handy. It has contact information for each clinic staff member, my nephrologists, and the on call nurse in case it is after hours. I have found my nurses are quite responsive anytime I call. Be sure and communicate issues you are having so they know where you’re at and what is going on. Your clinic team is part of your lifeline. They want you to do well and be successful with home dialysis.

Think ahead and plan for the kinds of natural disasters that happen in your area. For my area, it is tornadoes. You can add an app to your phone so that you have a heads up about nasty weather in your area. Have a back-up plan in case you can’t dialyze in your own home. We have already discussed our back-up plan with extended family so they know where they may be helpful in case we need them. I keep a weeks’ worth of my medications in a pill box holder so I can grab it and go quickly. There are several good resources out there. Depending on your location, you may need to be prepared for something I will never face. Your local ESRD Network can provide you with an Emergency Preparedness booklet that best corresponds to the emergencies in your geographical location.

In my household, we can act quickly because we have practiced, planned, and prepared. There are times when emergencies can be avoided, there are times they cannot. Being prepared can give you peace of mind, planning can reduce your stress, and practicing can help your responses become second nature. All of these can save you time and prevent a scary situation. All of these may save your life. Don’t just be a bystander, get involved. You can be successful and have the quality of life you are looking for.

Planning, Practice and Preparedness Dialysis - heather powellAbout the Author
Heather was diagnosed with kidney failure at 8 years old. She has experienced every form of treatment, including two transplants. Traversing the issues of kidney failure; she graduated from high school, college and completed a masters in social work to help others living with a chronic illness.


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