08 Feb

The fact is that 1 in 3 US adults is at risk for developing kidney disease. Yet, being diagnosed with kidney disease is typically a surprise. Chronic kidney disease often goes undetected until the final stage that results in kidney failure and the need for dialysis treatment.

“You are always surprised when someone tells you news like that,” said Joe Giuliano, transplant recipient and former DCI North Hills patient, referring to the moment his doctor told him his kidneys weren’t functioning properly. “After my annual physical, the doctor said it looked like I had diabetes. I thought, no way. And, he went on to tell me that I needed to see a nephrologist because my kidneys were failing. I was shocked. I didn’t have any symptoms.”

Kidney disease is often referred to as the “silent killer” and Joe’s reaction is very common among people facing kidney disease. Usual reactions to a diagnosis of kidney disease include shock, denial and depression. One study found that nearly 40% of dialysis patients reported experiencing depression after beginning treatments. It is normal to experience a range of emotions during this transition. Yet, you do not have to manage this alone. Your care team is available to provide resources for the emotional and physical support you need.

Talk to a social worker at your clinic or at REACH Kidney Care to learn more. In the meantime, take a look at the tips below to find hope amid life-changing news.

Learning is step one.

Learning more about your disease and your care is one of the best ways to regain control of your health and build a foundation for a positive attitude. The more you know, the easier it is to make a plan for your future. In addition to physician’s advice, you may want to explore patient organizations for insights. Check out the American Association of Kidney Patients, Renal Support Network and the National Kidney Foundation.

 “I listened to what my doctor said. The more I learned, the easier it was for me to accept that dialysis was a means to an end. I decided dialysis is what I would do while I waited on a transplant. I had my fistula placed early. Then, I worked on staying healthy so that I would remain transplant eligible,” advised Joe.

Then take one step at a time…day by day.

One way that Joe coped with his kidney disease was that he didn’t resist the changes his doctors asked him to make, he accepted and implemented them. “Dialysis will require lifestyle changes. You’ll need to take certain medicines. You’ll have doctor’s appointments and dialysis treatments. It’s okay. Just take it day by day,” said Joe.

Starting dialysis means you may have to limit certain foods and drinks. You may have to take blood pressure or heart medication. Remember, you are in control of your health. Start making small changes day by day.

Remember to live for what you love and be thankful.

Joe loves to travel. With condos in Las Vegas and Florida, Joe can decide one morning to be in a sunnier spot and be there by dinner. And yet, during the first year of dialysis, Joe didn’t travel.

“The nurses kept saying I could, but I was too nervous,” said Joe. “Would the staff in another dialysis center do things the same way? Would I get the same care? I didn’t know. So, for a year, I didn’t go.”

Then Joe remembered that he was dialyzing to live, not living for dialysis. So, Joe let a social worker help him plan a trip. Then, he was back on the road again and smiling.

“Happiness for me is going where I want, when I want,” said Joe. “Those nurses, they are angels of mercy. They are the most loving, caring and thoughtful people in the world. I’m so thankful for their help.”

Your doctors and nurses want to help you live, not just provide a treatment. What are you not doing today because of kidney disease that you would like to do? What makes you smile? Work with your care team to find a way to get your smile back. Then… remember to say thank you.

Finding reasons to say “thank you” is proven to increase positivity. A Harvard study reports, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

Feelings of depression, sadness and frustration are normal. The emotions that you are experiencing are in direct response to the changes in your life. However, these feelings can be addressed and managed. Through learning, adjusting to the new changes and finding gratitude, you can live your best life in spite of kidney disease.

Mr. Joe Giuliano