14 Jun Michael’s Story: 5 Ways He Delayed Dialysis


In November 2011, Michael Craig was fighting for his life.

He was a survivor from a harrowing car accident and remained in a coma for 25 days. His entire body shut down and he was completely dependent on life support. This was also his first time on dialysis, but he didn’t know it.

When he awoke, he met Dr. Muther, Medical Director for DCI Rockhill, not knowing this kidney doctor would change his life. Dr. Muther told Michael he would regain some kidney function as he continued to recover from the accident, but only to about 50-percent. He said weekly dialysis treatments may be in his future.

Kidney failure was not a part of Michael’s plan. For the next five years, he worked with his kidney care team in Kansas City to delay dialysis as long as possible. Michael shared with us some of the things he learned along his journey with kidney disease. Here are some of the top tips Michael followed to maintain his kidney function and postpone dialysis:

1.     Listen to your doctors from the start

Michael says: “Before the car wreck, I had some kidney problems. When I was 39, my primary care physician told me I had high blood pressure and diabetes. My doctor told me I was at risk for kidney disease but I denied it. I didn’t take my blood pressure medication and I continued to eat poorly for years. If I had listened back then, I might have been able to delay dialysis even longer.”

Dr. Muther says: “There is very good evidence that controlling blood pressure to a goal of 130/80, controlling diabetes to an A1C goal of 7%, and a very low sodium diet (1500 mg daily) can slow progression to dialysis. Accomplishing all three is ideal.”

2.     Meet with a renal dietitian

Michael says: “The very first thing Dr. Muther did after the car wreck was connect me with a renal dietitian. My dietitian went over a list of foods I needed to avoid and she taught me how potassium affects my health. I adjusted my diet; fruit like strawberries and bananas would now be limited. I would have never known these things without her. I told her I loved potatoes and gravy, and she taught me how to leach potatoes so that I could lower the potassium level. She helped me find kidney-friendly recipes I liked—that was huge.”

Dr. Muther says: “Dietary potassium, sodium and phosphorus can each affect renal and cardiovascular health in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Working with an expert renal dietician is essential to improve this very difficult and confusing problem.”

3.     Seriously, cut the salt out

Michael says: “One of the things that helped me delay dialysis was watching how much salt I ate. I’m not cooking with it anymore. When I was young and on the road, I used to make excuses for myself about the hamburgers and sodas I would eat and drink all the time. Not anymore. At some point, you have to realize you are responsible for your own kidneys and their health.”

Dr. Muther says: “The phrase ‘you are what you eat’ definitely applies to patients with CKD.”

4.     Stop saying “no” and explore your options

Michael says: “I used to be a naysayer. But finally, I realized buying into my own health and well-being is the key to postponing dialysis. I began taking my blood pressure medicines and educating myself about kidney disease. I went to a program at the local clinic because I didn’t understand much about dialysis. I learned about all the different types of treatment, and that I could even dialyze at home. I never knew I had options in treatment. I even signed up to see if I qualified to be on the kidney transplant list.”

Dr. Muther says: “The most important member of any health care team is the patient. All the expert advice in the world is fruitless without patient ‘buy in’.”

5.     Find an excellent care team

Michael says: “I got five more years of life without dialysis and I owe it to Dr. Muther, the Reach Kidney Care program, and DCI. I cannot imagine life without the help of these health professionals. When the time came to begin dialysis treatment, I wasn’t scared when I was ‘in the chair’ for my first time. I owe that to Jodi, my Reach Kidney Care coordinator, who had introduced me to the clinic staff and walked me through each step of the process. My team had prepared me with a fistula, and in the month before I began, they were meeting with me weekly. I’ve now been to six dialysis treatments and I am finally starting to feel better. I am beginning to live again – knowing I did all that I could in the end. This is my war story.”

Dr. Muther says: “Michael can live very well on dialysis by applying the same principles he has outlined above. Hopefully, if he can remain healthy, there is a kidney transplant in his future.”