What My Patients Have Taught Me About Thriving

By: Frank W. Maddux, MD, FACP

One of my great joys as a physician has been learning from my patients. Patients with kidney disease face varied and unique challenges; some are life-changing. Considering such challenges, how do they continue thriving in life? I’ve asked our patients at Fresenius Kidney Care this fundamental question, and learned a lot from them over several decades in practice.

Of the many invaluable insights my patients have shared throughout my career, three concepts come up again and again as playing a key role in kidney patients’ overall wellbeing: kinetics, intellectual purpose and community.

In medicine, kinetics refers to the study of motion as it relates to the body. For kidney patients, kinetics means a focus on mobility, dexterity and movement. The ability to work, volunteer, or just “get up and go” every day, is important for quality of life. Physical activity and movement is especially important for people with kidney disease, as it helps prevent muscle weakness, joint pain, stiffness, and increases general mobility. Whether it’s a walk around the block, or a set of simple stretches in the morning, making physical activity part of a daily routine is a positive strategy for patients. People who work, volunteer or stay involved in activities while on dialysis may have improved self-esteem, increased physical activity, heightened mental stimulation, more socialization, continued income from employment and greater personal satisfaction.

Intellectual Purpose
Kidney disease can be overwhelming.  Over the years, patients have shared that making sense of the life changes kidney disease brings, while still living with a sense of intellectual purpose and meaning, plays a key role in their happiness. Even with regular routine care, kidney disease and dialysis come with emotional dimensions. Finding purpose helps maintain a positive outlook. Recognizing emotions that are common to others with kidney disease can help patients feel less isolated and take control of their mental state. Whether it’s time with the grandchildren, pursuing a special hobby, or volunteering in the community, staying focused on a sense of intellectual purpose can add greater meaning for patients in their “everyday”. In fact, patients who are highly engaged and motivated tend
to participate more in their own care, ultimately leading to improved health outcomes.

Perhaps one of the most important things I have learned from my patients with kidney disease is the vital role community plays in helping patients live fuller, more complete lives. Community can take many forms: it can be family, peers, an organization like the Renal Support Network, a faith-based community, or other group of people who come together through mutual understanding of something they have in common. Many patients find that the realization they are not alone can become a great source of strength. For that very reason, Fresenius Medical Care is especially proud to champion the Renal Support Network’s community building initiatives; from monthly support groups, to the Renal Teen Prom and celebrity poker tournament, these efforts bring people together through shared experiences and are safe places where people can learn—from each other—how to thrive.

Kidney care has come a long way since I began in practice. The remarkable caregivers and physicians at Fresenius Kidney Care are grateful to our patients for the many ways they continue to teach us about how we can help them live life to its fullest. It is that very endeavor that drives our mission to improve the lives of every patient, every day.

Dr. Frank W. Maddux, MD, FACP, is Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President for Clinical and Scientific Affairs at Fresenius Medical Care North America, the parent company of Fresenius Kidney Care, a national leader in quality kidney care. An alumnus of Vanderbilt University, Dr. Maddux earned his M.D. degree from School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he holds a faculty appointment as Clinical Associate Professor. In 2017 he was nominated as one of Modern Healthcare’s 50 Most Influential Physician Executives.

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