A Dialysis Legacy

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By Valen Keefer

On our journey to staying healthy, patients cross paths with many doctors, nurses and technicians. Some health care professionals become distant memories and others have an everlasting impact on our lives. I have learned from experience to never underestimate the impact a patient may have on their doctor; as well as the impact a doctor can have on their patient.

It took a whole team of doctors to restore me into the healthy woman I am today. I recently lost one of those special individuals, my dialysis nurse. When I received the news that Bob Cogley, my dialysis nurse, passed away, my heart ached. All of the memories of my dialysis days flooded my mind. I stared off into the distance as my mind played one flashback after another.

This news took me back to January 2002. I was sitting up in a chair in my dark hospital room, with my parents. Four months had gone by in the hospital with constant pain and the unknown of what the next day would bring. I was battling polycystic kidney disease (PKD). With this disease, cysts form on the kidneys and over time deteriorates the kidney function. PKD is one of the most common life threatening genetic diseases. At 10 years old, I became one of the 600,000 Americans and 12.5 million people worldwide affected with this disease. Dialysis and transplantation are the only treatments. There is no cure. My kidneys were functioning 60 percent, but they could not control the cyst bleeds. My team of doctors at Johns Hopkins knew that I would not survive if they did not make a difficult yet vital decision; to remove my kidneys.

As my parents and I sat in my dark hospital room, we were awaiting a dialysis nurses arrival, Bob Cogley. I saw a crack of light from the door and in walked a man of short stature, bald, glasses, and soon I would learn with a heart of gold. I was too tired and weak to really comprehend all he was saying. He visited us to describe what life was going to be like after they performed the bilateral nephrectomy and I entered the world of dialysis.

One thing I remember from that day is that he was brutally honest. He didn’t sugar coat anything, but he made it clear that he was going to be there with me every step of the way. Bob was a man of his word.

Dialysis was quite hard on my body. I was fighting so many other things. I had pancreatitis and was fed through a PICC line in my arm. I just had a massive surgery where both of my kidneys were removed, and then went right into daily dialysis. Two weeks after my kidneys were removed, I had a congenital anomaly and four bleeding ulcers in my stomach and needed emergency surgery. My body was tired, fighting for its life and enduring the stress dialysis puts on ones body. I am amazed by what our bodies can bear and am quite impressed with what mine has overcome. My dialysis days in the hospital were quite a blur. I would get severe cramps. Most of the time the only way I could get through it was with the help of Benadryl, which would just make me sleep through the treatment.

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