“Those dumb mistakes, you learn from. They make you who you are.” A few years ago, David Lum was all about his career, maintaining electronics to keep planes flying on the whole West Coast. “Burning myself out without realizing it,” he said. “Living in airports. Eating terrible stuff. Not drinking liquids. Not exercising. Ignoring my blood pressure and saying I’ll deal with that later. I have no regrets. I got the material goods, I got the career of my dreams.” Life changed with his kidney failure, peritoneal dialysis and the unexpected death of his wife of 27 years. “The first thing you have to learn is acceptance. I have a great life, but it’s simpler now. And now being simple makes me happy.”
Molly Ramage lived just fine with a kidney transplant for 12 years. When it failed two years ago, she went into a tailspin, afraid she was dying. Her doctor helped her recover, and she went on home dialysis. Now she makes a point of savoring life. “When I wake up and go out, I look at the sky and think, ‘what a gorgeous sky.’ I try to keep a positive attitude, because I don’t want to miss a moment.” Retired, Molly walks nearly every day at Juanita Beach, and meets a group of friends every weekday for coffee. “Kidney disease is scary. When you’re diagnosed, it’s like the world is falling on you. But there’s a lot of us. And there’s great support.”
Larry Epley used to work a 10-hour shift as a truck driver, and then catch a ferry to West Seattle for 3 hours of dialysis. He once took a break from camping at Crystal Mountain to get a treatment at our center in Enumclaw. Asked how he managed 30 years with kidney disease, Larry says, “I’m easygoing. Things roll off me.” Larry’s first transplant, from his wife, Trish, eventually failed; they joke that she refused to donate again. In 2016, Larry received a second transplant as part of a national donation chain in which six other people also received transplanted kidneys. Today, Larry continues to enjoy travel and outdoor fun. Every year he creates a 9-hole golf course on his 5-acre property and invites friends to a tournament and picnic.
Bonnie Martin still entertains almost every day even though she’s retired from the family business running hotels and restaurants in Buckley. She drives to Northwest Kidney Centers in Enumclaw at 5:30 a.m. to be the day’s first patient. That way she’s finished in time to stop by the senior center or work at maintaining her status as “garage sale queen.” “Everything changed all at once,” when Bonnie’s husband died and her kidneys failed in 2013. “I’m not a candidate for a transplant. I said, ‘Give those kidneys to a younger person.’ Without dialysis, they’re going to throw dirt in my face. I knew I needed to be tough to keep going.”
Jackie Brown was 13 when she was diagnosed with diabetes. She learned that kidney disease is a common complication, but managed to avoid it for years with careful blood pressure management, diet and exercise. In 2010, age 35 and finally facing kidney failure with a husband and two kids, she chose to go home. “Home hemodialysis is great – I have more freedom, free rein on what I do, when I want. I spend more time at home, spend more time with my family. I like doing it by myself and for myself. I have that spirit of independence. Being able to be independent with dialysis lets me feel that I’m getting revenge on the diabetes.”
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