My first dialysis session, my last dialysis session

The build up to my first dialysis session was very short and intense. While I’d attended all of the outpatient clinics to have my kidney function assessed throughout the previous ten years, I had made no attempt to accept and understand my condition and hadn’t thought through the dialysis options but decided on home haemodialysis. Everything became a mad dash, my fistula was new and hadn’t developed too well but I was really very unwell and dialysis became imperative. So, as the morning of my first dialysis session arrived, I had no idea how to prepare myself, physically or mentally, for what lay ahead.

As I entered the dialysis unit at Salford Royal my subconscious decided that it had already seen enough, didn’t like what it saw and headed for the door. I fainted.

On coming round I was greeted by a smiling nurse who reassured me and explained what she needed to do next to begin dialysis. Following several attempts to needle my arm and the vein repeatedly collapsing the nurse decided to call another nurse and asked her to try and insert the needle. Further attempts were made with the same results but throughout the process the nurses remained calm, reassuring and never once rushed me. They decided to call in the big guns, the best needler in the unit but by this stage I couldn’t get this scene out of my head.


I was imagining a never ending queue of nurses…

It became clear after a few more failed attempts that needling my arm wasn’t an option and the conversation turned towards having a line inserted in my neck. The conversation didn’t last long. I was determined that I didn’t want a line and persuaded the nurses that we’d try again in 5 days. While they agreed with that approach they left me in no doubt that if they encountered similar problems with needling my arm at the next session then a line would be inserted. So all in all a difficult and frustrating day ended with me wondering just how I was going to cope.

Skip forward 11 months and I received a phone call not long after arriving at work from a doctor at Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI) informing me that they had a kidney they thought suitable for me and could I make my way to hospital as quickly as possible pausing only to gather the things I’d need for a hospital stay. I called my wife, my son, my boss and the personnel department and headed home my mind racing with thoughts of what the rest of the day had in store. After I arrived at MRI and undergoing blood tests, form filling and several conversations with doctors about how the day would unfold I was told that I’d need to dialyse before surgery because my potassium levels were too high. At this stage I didn’t even know if I was to receive the transplant but the news that I had to dialyse helped me enormously. I offered to dialyse myself and found comfort and a level of peace from undertaking a task that 11 months earlier seemed impossible but now was familiar and reassuring. For the rest of the day I was relaxed and calm even when they confirmed I was to have the transplant.

The transplant was a success and now it’s ten years further on and I’m writing a blog about my experiences. Two thoughts spring to mind, firstly, if you’re a newly diagnosed sufferer of CKD, embrace it, gain as much knowledge of your condition as you can because it will help you. Secondly, it is amazing what we can do when we have to!

Profile photo of Rob Finnigan

I’m an ADPKD patient who was lucky enough to have a transplant in 2003 after only eleven months of dialysis. I'm the north-west Patient Advocacy & Support Officer for the BKPA and my interests, other than my role within GMKIN, include sport, music and politics . Follow me on Twitter: @finnigr

4 thoughts on “My first dialysis session, my last dialysis session

  • I used to do home haemo Rob then at Prestwich self-care. Been needling myself now and then too this time but need to get my Fistula built up a bit more yet. Nurse blew it last week and it can be so annoying and painful so would rather do my own. Just gives us that litle bit of control back i think

    • Not sure I’d want to go back to home haemo because of the burden it placed on my wife but PD might be ruled out because of a recent umbilical hernia which arose following a gall bladder operation. Fingers crossed that I don’t have to make the decision.

  • I totally agree with your last comments as embracing the condition empowers you as a renal patient to overcome circumstances that would have been giant obstacles before! As for performing my own HD, I’m afraid that I’m not that brave as I chose APD as my first choice so that I could easily dialyse overnight at home or on holiday. Unfortunately, the cellular structure of my peritoneum broke down and stopped transporting fluid so I had a fistula formed and had maintenance HD at my local renal unit.
    So I take my hat off to you for doing your own needling.

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