Many years had passed when my father received his call, “You have kidney disease”. I remember how dismayed he was to learn that he would have to get worse before he would be treated, i.e. start dialysis. He was a research chemist who used to do things like ride Harleys across the country, climb mountains, sail, and backpack off trail. Eventually he started dialysis treatment, doing two years of hemodialysis and then this novel, new type of dialysis: CAPD (peritoneal dialysis). He was one of the first in our country and he used to have a plaque in the kitchen thanking him for being one of the early patients in this therapy, allowing more to be learned. That was before we had treatments like high flux hemodialysis and drugs like Epogen, activated vitamin D, and the current array of antihypertensives. Dad made it for eighteen years. I had already received my diagnosis by then, learning that I had polycystic kidneys on the same day that I found out that I was pregnant (oops). I am now five years older than my dad was when he started dialysis and I still do not need dialysis therapy. I believe that I can thank today’s medicines for that. While I do not think I will be in time for “The Cure”, my son might. He was diagnosed about ten months ago.
So, like many others, I chose this career for personal reasons. As a clinician, I tend not to see patients as “them”, but as “us”. Medical and nutritional advice feels way different when it is for self. I hope that this helps me to be less judgmental and more compassionate. For better or worse, it also makes me relentlessly unforgiving when I think that my patients are not getting the absolute best at all times. As my boss knows, I can be a real pain!”