What Chronic Kidney Disease Taught Me About My Life

I was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure when I was 12. The doctors were unable to figure out the cause, but under the circumstances, they just told me to undergo dialysis three times a week.

In the beginning, I assumed that it was only for a short period of time and then everything would go back to normal. You see, the enormity of the fact that my kidneys had failed permanently did not sink in just yet and my mother was too shocked and heartbroken to make me understand the entire truth. But when weeks turned into months, then years, and I was still forced to go to dialysis, I began to comprehend the fact that my life would never be the same again.

A chronic kidney disease (CKD) patient on dialysis is poisoned by everything that they put inside them. The term “bloody hell” takes on a very literal meaning for people on dialysis. It takes almost 12 hours to get over the side effects of a single session of dialysis, which leaves us with only twelve hours of relative freedom before the beginning of another session.

As a teenager, I spent more time at the hospital than I did at school. Obviously, I envied others who could eat, travel and live as they please, whereas I had to depend on a machine just to survive each day. But slowly I also began to realize that despite my debilitating health, the fact that I am alive is a huge privilege in itself. It does not matter if I am unable to live the way I want, I am still capable of experiencing something and the pain I felt during dialysis was just a reminder that my life is worth living.

The fact that I had to undergo dialysis regularly as a teenager caused some major changes in my personality. It made me understand the importance of having a sense of humor. I realized that all you need is a little bit of imagination to find humor in the bleakest of situations. You could actually turn your day around with laughter. As a 12 year old kid on dialysis, I felt immensely better when I imagined bonking my scary doctor on the head with a dialyzer for not allowing me to drink enough water.

Being a CKD patient for 10 years, I discovered that pity usually comes at a price. In high school, I was labeled as “that poor girl who is sick” and was automatically excluded from most group activities. People usually do not want to take unnecessary risks with the sick kid. This behavior made me more reluctant to share the details of my ill health with my peers in college.

Although it was quite tough at times to conceal my condition from my friends and classmates, and I had to come up with new and creative excuses every time I was absent from class, I still got a chance to feel like a normal kid after a long time. And in the process of managing both college and dialysis, I learned the meaning of perseverance, efficiency and time management. What others did in 24 hours, I learned to manage in 12.

I finally underwent a transplant last year. Now when I look back at my life I see that I have come a long way from that immature 12 year old who constantly complained about her boring life. Most people assume that I had a pretty terrible adolescence which could not have been farther from the truth.

CKD taught me so many things about myself which I could not have learned in any other way. The knowledge that I could pull through this kind of adversity gave a real boost to my self-confidence. It made me both stronger and wiser as a person. Although dialysis was a pretty painful process, I believe I am better off for having lived through this experience than I would have been without it.

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