Victor was a 20-year-old soldier from Tennessee headed for a tour in Greece when he discovered that high blood pressure was causing his kidneys to fail. Soon after receiving a medical discharge from the army, his total kidney failure took him by surprise. “It was Jan. 1, 1983 and I was going to a new year’s party. I had been coughing for a day or two and thought I was probably catching a cold. I didn’t think much about that. Then, when I tried to put on my shoes, I noticed my feet were swollen to the point I almost couldn’t get my feet in. That was strange to me. I went on to the party and once I got home I started getting very sick. I was throwing up to the point I had to go to the hospital. At the hospital they didn’t know what was wrong at first. Then I was transferred to another hospital and finally told that I had developed pneumonia and it has shut my already failing kidneys completely down,” says Victor when describing his discovery of kidney failure.
After learning that his kidneys had failed, Victor’s mother and sister worked with the doctor to find a dialysis center for him. Victor says, “DCI was the first place I went. I didn’t understand dialysis at first. I had a good doctor who spent time with me. He explained why I needed a shunt [fistula] in my arm. He explained to me how the machine works to filter my blood. Then the staff showed me how to work the machine and string my lines. I decided then and there that I wanted to know about my treatment and be in control of my body. I had a nurse work with me so that I could learn how to insert my own needles.”
According to Herma Tucker, DCI Maryville Nurse Manager, “Two things have really helped Victor to thrive on dialysis. The first thing is that Victor took an active role in his care from the very beginning. He learned every aspect of his treatment. Secondly, Victor has a positive attitude. He wants to mentor other patients who are new to dialysis. You can often hear him offering words of encouragement to other patients.”
Victor says, “Ever since I’ve been on dialysis I’ve wanted to encourage others. I know how depressed and scared you are in the beginning. It’s hard to understand. But God is good. He put me in the right places to be where I need to be to get what I needed for treatment.”
His advice to people starting dialysis is, “It’s not the end of the world. Life is not over. Believe in yourself and the Lord. Watch your intake. Always eat before dialysis.”
When Victor started dialysis 30 years ago, his treatments were 5 hours and 45 minutes long, three days a week. Today, Victor’s treatment time is 4 hours and 15 minutes long, three days a week. In order to pass the time, Victor says he naps, watches television, and talks to other patients.
Victor has spent time in other clinics while travelling. “I’ve been to a few other non-DCI clinics when on vacation and in comparison I can say that the people at my DCI clinic really care about the patients. I definitely know I wouldn’t want to be somewhere else,” says Victor. He goes on to say, “In my 30 years with DCI there have been a lot of good nurses, a lot of good people. I’ve bonded with them and I’m thankful for them.”
“Without dialysis, I wouldn’t be here. I’d have to kiss my loved ones good bye. So, every day I wake up, I thank the Lord for my day. I’m able to go help my family out. I’m blessed. It keeps me going.”