I became a dialysis patient in January 1995. When it became clear that dialysis treatment would be inevitable and imminent, it was clear to my wife and me that we would decide to have it at home (home dialysis).
Due to a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis) but also due to personal aversion, treatment based on the principle of peritoneal dialysis was ruled out.
I have to admit that we were pretty naive about it. We had little knowledge of the procedure and the dangers of hemo (home) dialysis, and looking back I have to say: if we had been fully informed about it, we would have had considerably more scruples in our decision. But the encouragement of the doctors at my dialysis center strengthened our decision.
Training began two weeks after starting dialysis treatment. First, my wife and I were familiarized with the construction and basic operation of the dialysis machine. Through reading we deepened what we had learned in the center and acquired the theoretical basics of kidney replacement therapy.
Then came the day that gave us a few sleepless nights in advance: my wife was supposed to puncture me for the first time.
Despite great nervousness, but above all because of the confident guidance of our “trainer” Lars, everything went well. That naturally increased our confidence. After a few successful punctures by my wife, I felt just as safe as with the nurses, although each puncture was still an overcoming for both of us.
But things didn’t always go smoothly. Once, when the arterial cannula was inserted, the lower wall of the vessel was pierced and blood flowed into the surrounding tissue. I had a swelling the size of a table tennis ball on my arm in seconds. This incident was, of course, a setback and troubled us for a while. We were only able to continue our training with the mental support of the nursing staff.
And then the next hurdle had to be overcome: The doctors were of the opinion that independence as an advantage of home dialysis would only be given if the home dialysis patient also made himself as independent as possible from his helper, namely by puncturing himself (by the way general “doctrine”).
Since I am terribly afraid of needles and it takes some effort to just look at the dialysis cannulas, it was unimaginable for me to put these “tubes” into my arms myself.
To get ahead of the game: again with the indispensable support of our trainer, I initially only inserted one cannula, later both cannulas. Despite being very nervous before each puncture, I was very proud of my courage afterwards.
It was planned to install the dialysis machine in our home after Easter 1995. During the training phase we had almost no complications or alarms, so that we only knew possible irregularities in theory. This created some uncertainties on my part about “going home”. But after the encouragement of the entire team, we stuck to this date.
Since then we have dialyzed at home without any major problems. I only dialyzed at the center for routine blood tests and when my wife didn’t have time.
In parallel to the training, I went through the necessary examinations and in March 95 I was on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. On the morning of June 18, 1999, the long-awaited call came: A donor kidney had been found for me and was waiting for me at the Medical University of Lübeck, where I should be there immediately.
Later that day I was successfully transplanted and after just two and a half weeks I was able to leave the clinic.
Looking back on four and a half years of home dialysis, I can say that I have never regretted our decision to have dialysis at home, on the contrary: I would always choose this way and can recommend home dialysis to everyone who also has to make such a decision and meet the requirements.
Not only did I find the independence from the dialysis center and the flexibility associated with it pleasant during the dialysis period, but the fact that I had to deal intensively with the dialysis, its theory and practical implementation, helped me to cope better with the difficult transition phase to requiring dialysis; I didn’t have time to worry or get depressed.
And even today, actively dealing with my illness gives me the strength to cope with it.