By Kasia Michalik
Tunisia Bullock, 29, was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in June 2008. Her first in-center dialysis session was on June 13. For over three years she would go to the center and participate in the typical thrice weekly treatment that would go for about four hours. One would think that receiving this life saving treatment would make Bullock feel better, but it was the opposite. She was lethargic, had no energy, no appetite and felt like she was on a hamster wheel.
“Every time I would start to feel better, it was time to get back to in-center and I would crash and feel bad again,” she said. “Then I would feel good and then bad again and it went on like that for three-and-a-half years and I was really tired of it.”
She started asking questions about home therapies, but wasn’t getting answers so she took it upon herself to research other dialysis options but found it frustrating.
In May 2011, she started home hemodialysis (HHD) and it was like night and day. Her energy levels went through the roof, her blood pressure seemed more stable, her appetite and sleep improved and she was able to function like a normal 29 year old. She wishes that it was easier for her to get information during the time she first became interested in HHD.
“First and foremost, centers need to get educated themselves because the centers can’t educate if they are not educated,” Bullock said. “Secondly, I feel like they need to present patients with all their options, being completely neutral. It doesn’t matter what the center thinks or what the nurses think, the patient needs to be informed so they can make the best decisions for themselves, but in order for that to happen the patient needs to be informed of all of their options.”
Since her first day, she has kept on a regular Monday through Friday schedule where her sessions last at the most two and a half hours, and when she takes a break she doesn't feel like catching up is as difficult as with in-center treatments.
“When there is a two-day break, during the weekend, typically I feel pretty normal,” Bullock said. “If I drink a little bit more than maybe I should have or more than what I usually do, I may feel a little bit heavy, and have some puffiness around my eyes, but for the most part, that does not happen. I cannot tell a difference for having those two days off.”
Feeling better is something that dialysis patients desire, but many of them aren’t educated or don’t know about the options that are out there for them like peritoneal dialysis (PD) or HHD.