Chad Gallion’s kidneys failed when he was just 16 years old. He was born with a posterior urethral valve blockage — a birth defect that was not detected in utero. Despite knowing that kidney failure could be a possibility for much of his life, the official diagnosis, and the reality that he’d have to rely on others for his care, hit the independently-minded young man especially hard.
Gallion’s sister matched to be his first kidney donor in 1993. But the transplanted kidney failed six years later. Gallion’s mother stepped forward as his second donor match. His body rejected her kidney, too.
To sustain life, Gallion, now 45, began in-center dialysis in 2004. Right away, his care team discussed the possibility of him treating at home. Gallion was active, young and healthy – outside of his kidney failure. But restrictions around home dialysis care partners at the time posed some challenges.
“When I started dialysis, it wasn’t possible for me to dialyze entirely on my own,” recalled Gallion. “I actually traveled to Indiana University Health six days a week for almost four years, where I dialyzed on a home hemodialysis machine around other patients.”
As Gallion familiarized himself with the intricacies of his therapy, his care team gauged his ability to treat alone, eventually permitting him to do that.
New technologies are helping to expand access and increase patient confidence to choose home dialysis more than ever before. When patients treat at home, they have two therapy options – home hemodialysis (HHD) or peritoneal dialysis (PD). HHD works much like in-center dialysis, but is done with a smaller, more user-friendly machine that allows patients to dialyze themselves at home. Nephrologists will sometimes prescribe HHD treatments to occur more often and for shorter periods of time. HHD patients should have a care partner available to assist them with the treatment, although in some instances, eligible HHD patients may receive approval from their nephrologist to treat on their own.
“Treating at home, by yourself, can seem daunting,” said Gaillion’s nephrologist, Dr. Dennis Mishler with Indiana University Health. “In Chad’s case, he was so young when he was diagnosed. I could tell that he would be capable treating on his own, using the tools that were available at the time.”
Starting HHD had an immediate impact on Gallion’s health. He felt more energy post-treatment, experienced less cramping and had a better appetite. Along the way, he’s relied on the supportive technologies available through the DaVita Care Connect® patient health app to connect remotely with his care team. Offering a convenient, connected and confident experience for patients is at the core of DaVita’s home dialysis program. Day or night, Gallion can call or message DaVita’s care team for extra support while he’s dialyzing, which helps him feel more secure and confident treating on his own.
What Gallion enjoys most about HHD is the freedom and active participation he has in his care.
“If something comes up and I really want to be there, I can,” said Gallion. “I’m able to adjust my treatment to my schedule – whether that’s going on a trip with my machine in tow or watching my niece play volleyball. I work closely with my care team prior to make any schedule adjustments.”
“The more informed you are, and the more involved you are, the better the care you receive,” continued Dr. Mishler. “Home dialysis can improve self-esteem and build self-reliance. Chad’s experience is an excellent example of the benefits of a give and take approach between patients and care teams to foster open communication and greater support.”
Service provider and modality selection are choices made exclusively between the patient and nephrologist.