Dialysis is an unrelenting process. I undergo treatments three days a week for hours at a time. During my 20 years on dialysis, I discovered the importance of comfort while undergoing treatment. I learned to “nest.”
Nest? What do I mean by that?
Think about a dialysis center. It is usually a large room with lots of chairs, equipment and people. The center is often cold, and sometimes feels even colder while on dialysis. The machines are loud, as each one makes its own sounds. People talk on cell phones or to the nurses and technicians on duty about their medical histories or problems. Then there is the uncomfortable chair you sit on for hours at a time as sheer total boredom sets in with little to do. A drop in blood sugar can be problematic, and hunger can become a big issue when the tea and crumpets that might have been expected to come around never do. Plus, technicians are too busy to listen to patients’ stories.
Sounds awful, doesn’t it? I realize I have made dialysis sessions sound awful, horrible in fact, yet I have managed to do them for 20 years.
There is a solution! To solve my dialysis problems, I found solutions to each one.
Consider this: Does the idea of settling into a comfortable nest resonate with you? Build a nest! My definition of nesting is to take what you need to the dialysis center to make yourself as comfortable as possible during treatment. This means giving careful thought to how the dialysis center affects your personal comfort level. I found and brought my own personalized materials to make my nest.
Considered the following questions, and my solutions each issue, while you think about your own dialysis experience.
Is the center’s chair uncomfortable?
I have a love/hate relationship with the chair. It is a nemesis to my back and hips. I hate sitting in it. But while I am on dialysis the chair it is my personal space so I make it as comfortable as possible. I bought one of those foam mattress toppers to put on top of it. Mine is a one-inch thick topper that can be found at Walmart or Target. I fold a twin sheet over it to protect it. This helps make the chair more comfortable.
Do you get cold?
I do. I understand the need to keep the center’s thermostat set at 72 degrees to help cut down on germs, but breezes from air conditioning vents sometimes flow down right over me. I get so cold that I believe I will turn into a Popsicle. So I double up a big, beautiful, soft king-size blanket to cover myself with. I also use skiers’ warming packs to cover my chest area, or I place them in the folds of my blanket to help warm my body core when I feel extra cold.
Does the noise bother you?
It bothers me. My anxiety hamsters spin in their wheels and give me panic attacks. The repetitive sounds of the machines set my teeth on edge. And I do not enjoy hearing other patients’ one-sided phone conversations. I also don’t want to hear about other patients’ medical histories or problems as they discuss them with nurses, social workers or doctors.
The problem is solved with a nice pair of noise cancelling headphones. Spend the money and invest in a good pair.
Do you get hungry? Does your blood sugar level drop?
I get hungry in the six or seven hours that I’m on the machine. While the treatment cleanses my blood it also sucks the nutrients right out of me.
I bring a lunch bag with snacks. I usually include a sliced apple, a bag of some type of cereal, and either pretzels, chips, or cookies. I also bring a cup of ice to sip on throughout my session. It’s better than asking a tech or nurse for water. It puts me in control. (Some dialysis centers will not allow patients to eat while dialyzing. You can eat before going in, then have a high protein snack ready for after your session.)
Are you bored with the center’s TV shows?
I flip through TV channels rapidly while on dialysis. For me, boredom sets in with just the TV to occupy my time. And when the patient next to me does not want to talk, or is asleep, I pull out my solution to boredom: my Kindle. I bought one to use on dialysis days. I love it. Boredom disappears. It has a plethora of things I can do. I load mine with games to play and books to read. I can email, watch a movie or listen to music, and it fits in my snack bag. I carry a cord to keep it charged. (Most centers offer access to Wi-Fi and will supply users with a guest password.)
What other items can you bring to make your dialysis sessions more pleasant?
I bring a bag with a change of clothing for those times when my bodily fluids leak. I also carry a plastic bag for dirty clothes.
Now you know my secrets!
These are my own personal nest materials. Begin to put your nest together, but think about what you need to get through a session comfortably, and change or modify your materials to suit your needs. Maybe, just maybe, dialysis treatments will become more pleasant for you.
If you would like to use your entire house as a nest, there is always home dialysis, but that is another topic.
I dialyze to live, I do not live to dialyze. Remember to do something fun today. Live your life.
Katherine Soto lives in Rialto, CA with her husband Victor. They have been married for thirty-three years. They currently have a cat and a dog who mooch off them. They raised two daughters who are leading happy lives. They have one granddaughter who is almost three and is a light in their lives. Katherine is a retired special education teacher. She taught for over twenty years, most of them at the 6th grade level. Katherine enjoys writing, reading, traveling, and antiquing. She has a blog that ls about bits and pieces of her life: lifenotonthelist.com.
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