Apr 16, 2020
‘Live Life Fearlessly’: Veteran Patient Experiences Life Beyond Dialysis Thanks to Supportive Care Team

Retired Air Force veteran, Carl Stewart, discovered his passion for traveling the world while serving his country. But a diagnosis of end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) in 2012 nearly stopped in him in his tracks.


Stewart initially resisted his diagnosis. He didn’t want to start dialysis because he thought it would slow him down. Managing his diabetes was enough of a challenge.


“I felt that I had too much to do,” recalled Stewart. “After all, I’m a tough veteran and survivor of the Vietnam War.”


Five years ago, Stewart returned from a trip to the Philippines and New Zealand having lost almost 25 pounds. He could barely walk a block without feeling out of breath and stopping to vomit. His friends kept asking him if he needed a ride to the emergency room.


His declining health led Stewart to seek out a Kidney Smart® class to learn more about life with ESKD. That class encouraged him to visit the a DaVita dialysis center in Raleigh, North Carolina. The visit changed his life. He decided to begin in-center hemodialysis to replace his kidney function.


Stewart was stunned by how much better he felt after his first few weeks of treatment. Instead of having to visit his primary care physician monthly, he moved from quarterly to now semi-annual appointments. Life had become infinitely more livable.


“I’ve learned that a positive outlook is contagious,” said Stewart. “This isn’t a death sentence. You can live with chronic kidney disease. It just requires lifestyle changes.”


For Stewart, avoiding alcohol and quitting smoking has helped keep his life in balance. He also exercises and frequently rides to and from his dialysis treatments. Stewart’s passion for cycling and his ESKD diagnosis intersected when he signed up for Tour DaVita three years ago. Each year, he rides hundreds of miles with teammates from his center with a goal of helping others in need receive life-sustaining kidney care.  


Live life fearlessly is Stewart’s motto. He hopes to be an example for other people with ESKD to understand that traveling, exercise and finding your passions are all possible while receiving dialysis. Through the support and encouragement of his care team at DaVita, Stewart does not fear striving to accomplish any goal.