From the Kitchen to the Clinic: A Story of Dialysis and Determination


Mickey speaks with honesty and authority through an intriguing accent that she describes as a New York Southern Drawl. She was raised in Brooklyn and studied as an apprentice chef in New Orleans.

You may have guessed that she loves to cook and to run a kitchen. “It’s like a big, organized dance,” she says.

She first moved to Seattle in 1991, working in some of the city’s best restaurants. She spent 10 years as the assistant executive chef at The Edgewater Hotel in downtown Seattle and was the first female executive chef at the Tulalip Casino. She recently retired after 25 years of cooking. Standing and serving up over 2,500 plates a night took a physical toll on Mickey, and it was her rheumatoid arthritis that ultimately caused her to hang up her apron.

Mickey’s kidney problems stem from a rare type of infant diabetes, which has plagued her family for six generations. She started dialysis a year and a half ago, doing in-center hemodialysis three times a week.

“Dialysis doesn’t mean you can’t live a long life,” Mickey says. “It’s not a death sentence, but part of life.”

Mickey recently switched from in-center treatments to peritoneal dialysis (PD), a type of dialysis done at home. With peritoneal dialysis, waste in the blood is cleansed through the lining of the abdomen. PD cycles are done multiple times each day; this form of treatment more closely mimics healthy kidneys which work around the clock.

As a home patient, she likes having the additional flexibility in her schedule and being in charge of her treatments. As someone who has spent their career multitasking in professional kitchens, managing her PD treatments is no problem. While dialyzing at home requires a big commitment, it was one well worth making for Mickey who has seen improved kidney function since starting PD.

“You want to live, so you make changes. It boils down to what do you think of your life,” says Mickey. “Switching to home has been a really positive experience. I have more time to do what I want to do like travel and play guitar. I would recommend it to anyone who is able to do it.”

In terms of her diet, she says “What I eat is mostly good. You gotta eat properly to stay within the goals. It’s mind over matter. What are you gonna put in your mouth?”

We all know that salt is tough on the kidneys and causes fluid retention. As tasty alternatives, Mickey recommends seasoning with tamarin, pepper, Mrs. Dash and Everything bagel seasoning. With all of the pre- and post-kidney disease dietary experience she’s gathered, Mickey says she’s interested in compiling a kidney-friendly cookbook.

“Unless you’ve been through it, it’s scary. You have to get this treatment and then you also have to eat differently,” she says.

Mickey would also love to mentor new dialysis patients. “NKC does what it does, but that won’t matter if you don’t do your part,” she says. “You have to want to live.”

She claims she’s just a positive person, not a philosopher. In either case Mickey has important things to share with her fellow patients.