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Benefits of Nocturnal Dialysis

By Matt Herbert.

Some patients may feel nervous about deciding to switch to nocturnal haemodialysis, but for me it was a clear choice. I had been going to a centre to dialyse for 16 years, which took up a lot of my time: six hours during the day, three times a week, so in total eighteen of my waking hours every week.

I have been on dialysis since I was a seventeen due to my kidney syndrome, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, or FSGS. It was the most inconvenient part of my life, comprising a lot of time, effort and travel expense. This began to matter more once I had a family, as I wanted to be able to spend every spare moment with my wife and child.

Image of Kay Herbert and son Finlay
Kay Herbert and son Finlay

I had never done haemodialysis at home, but I knew there were huge benefits in dialysing more frequently. I thought home haemodialysis was unavailable to me until I switched consultant and she immediately suggested nocturnal dialysis. I was the perfect candidate because I am young, with a family, and work long shifts. Nocturnal dialysis allows you to dialyse every day, for as long as you sleep. It’s a gentler, longer process than dialysing only a few times a week in-centre and puts far less stress on my heart.

Switching was surprisingly simple. I’d been needling myself in-centre for a while beforehand, so I had no fear to get over, it only took me a couple of weeks of training with nurses and a few supervised sessions, I was ready to go home. I think my wife was more nervous than I was. She worried we would need expensive adjustments to our home and that she wouldn’t get any sleep, but the machine isn’t noisy, and we simply had to run a water pipe to our bedroom because it wasn’t next to the bathroom.

Since switching to home haemodialysis, I have always dialysed overnight, and have noticed huge benefits to my health, life and wellbeing. When I first started, it did unsettle my sleep for a short time but now I don’t notice it. The benefits definitely outweigh that brief period of restlessness a million times over. I have so much more energy than before, which is very much needed with two children.

Working as a chef, I work long hours and often have split shifts. When dialysing in-centre, I used to struggle driving back and forth but I can now cycle the 10 miles to work. I can also eat a wider variety of foods and have cut the amount of medicine I need to take. I am so much happier. The best part is that the machine is handsfree, so I can feed our child at the same time, taking on my fair share of night time parenting duties.

I imagine, for many patients, the thought of dialysing when unconscious sets alarm bells ringing. But there’s no need to worry, each machine is fitted with a water sensor pad that wakes you up if anything out of the ordinary happens. It’s only happened to me once, and the alarm was more frightening than the fault. NxStage also has a 24-hour helpline which is reassuring for me and my family.

I haven’t looked back since switching to nocturnal dialysis, and it’s been five years. I can now fill my days with the life I want to lead. No more sitting around waiting for the day to begin.

Image of child

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