This week has felt a bit strange for me and my wife, Hollie. It’s almost as if I’ve been given a last few days of freedom, a stay of execution, perhaps, before I make the long, lonely walk into the Renal Unit for the first time for a few years. We can both see the dreaded haemodialysis machine looming on the horizon, creeping ever closer to us. And there’s nothing we can do about it!
I suppose I’m making the most of still having a free diet and not having to stick to a fluid intake restriction. For those of you who don’t know, dialysis patients have to adhere to a strict diet between treatments as the kidney acts as a filter for the body, taking all the rubbish stuff that goes into your blood through food and drink – horrible toxins and disgusting poisons that can cause you harm if the levels become too high – and turns them into lovely golden urine. All this is done for a renal patient during the dialysis treatment, and so in between sessions it’s important that these levels don’t get too high, as this can lead to further, far more serious health problems. Renal patients are often placed on a low-Potassium diet, which doesn’t allow all the tastiest foods and drinks – it seems – like chocolate, crisps, peanuts, bananas and coffee. Potatoes have to be double boiled during the cooking process to remove much of the potassium they naturally hold, and although cutting out tasty treats is initially a struggle, it’s quite easy to get used to.
Another sometimes difficult aspect of decreased kidney function is having to stick to a fluid intake restriction. With less, or sometimes no urine at all being produced as a result of poor kidney function, renal patients also have to keep a close eye on the amount they drink. When I was previously dialysing my daily fluid restriction was 1 litre a day. One litre. One. That equates to about 4 decent-sized cups of tea per day. Four. And when you take into account milk used with a bowl of cereal or the water used when cooking rice or pasta – even a cheeky ice cream at the beach – then that one litre doesn’t always go very far.
But I can handle sticking to the diet. Cutting out foods isn’t a problem, and you are usually allowed to take a ‘treat’ to dialysis to enjoy during treatment anyway. It’s the fluid restriction that I used to struggle with. And the more I used to try and stop thinking about having something to drink, then the more I wanted one.
So for now, and until I’m told otherwise, I’m making the most of it. And the McDonald’s lunch and large Coke I enjoyed earlier today tasted all the better for it.
Now, where’s my coffee…