For more than 45 years, Lucille Parker never gave up. She was one of the world’s longest continuous dialysis patients – and from what is known, was most likely the longest Black continuous dialysis patient.
Feisty and outspoken, Lucille did her best to live life to the fullest. “You got to be strong in the mind. You got to be strong in the body. But it doesn’t mean that you don’t have life,” Lucille said.
Lucille learned she had kidney disease at age 19 while living in Illinois. “I was sick. My mom said, ‘Girl, you’re pregnant.’ I said, ‘Woman, you’re crazy.’”
Lucille’s doctor determined one kidney was working at only 50 percent and the other at 75 percent. She was admitted to the hospital for 30 days as her kidneys continued to fail and in April 1977 she started dialysis treatments. Three times a week she would be hooked up to a machine that cleaned the waste from her blood and removed extra fluid from her body, replacing the work normally done by healthy kidneys.
At the time Lucille was hoping to be picked up by the Barbizon Agency and become a model. But she gave up that dream and followed her soon-to-be husband Michael Parker to Seattle, where they built a life together. She worked as an office manager while raising their son and daughter, supporting Mike’s work as a dry cleaner and the many businesses he started, including a limousine service.
The two weren’t only partners in love, but partners in Lucille’s dialysis treatments. “Having Mike around me to support me and to keep pushing me is what I needed.”
Lucille inherited a genetic condition from her father that inflames the small blood vessels in the kidneys. That put her in the minority of people with kidney failure, who more often develop kidney problems after a history of diabetes or uncontrolled high blood pressure.
She received a kidney transplant that didn’t take, requiring her to continue dialysis even with the new organ.
Throughout her years of dialysis, Lucille received support from family and friends from Beacon Hill First Baptist Church, where she and Mike were part of the choir.
One must be tough and determined to do 45 years of dialysis. Over the years, Lucille died three times. She had a heart attack at a dialysis clinic and was revived by a nurse who administered CPR until the medics arrived. She pulled through two additional near-death experiences, battled intestinal infection and had a hip replacement.
The secret to her longevity? According to Lucille, “You have to stay on your schedule and take care of yourself. You don’t cut your treatments short and you can’t skip,” she said. “You can’t drink. You can’t smoke. You can’t do drugs. You can’t put anything in your body that doesn’t belong. It’s about living, not partying.”
Her fighting spirit will be missed by all of us at Northwest Kidney Centers.
Catch a glimpse of Lucille and her husband Mike in this video shot in 2022.