Marlene LeMarr was driving her husband, Terry, to dialysis nearly 40 miles away from their home.
It impacted her ability to care for her grandkids, who she helps raise.
Home dialysis has allowed Marlene and Terry to have more time with their families.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Marlene LeMarr. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I was 19 when I met Terry 55 years ago. I was dating his friend, but Terry became interested. After going on our first date in March, we got married on July 7. When we decide we're going to do something, nothing is going to stop us.
For the past 10 years, we've turned that determination toward Terry alive. Back in 2013, Terry needed quadruple bypass surgery, and doctors discovered he had early-stage kidney disease. We managed that and his type 2 diabetes for years, but last year Terry had pneumonia. It wiped out what little kidney function he had left.
Terry needed dialysis to keep him alive. We'd been through a lot medically, but we weren't prepared for the impact dialysis would have on our family.
Bringing Terry to treatment meant less time for the grandkids
We live in rural Illinois, near the Iowa border. To get Terry to dialysis, I have to drive 37 miles each way. His treatments lasted four hours, four times a week, which means I was spending about 20 hours a week bringing Terry to appointments. It was my part-time job, and it didn't even include his other doctors' appointments, which were usually at least an hour away.
Sometimes, there was even more running around. Our son is a single dad, so we help raise our grandkids, who are 11 and 13. If I needed to get them to school events, I would drop Terry off, drive home to help with the kids, and then do another one-hour round trip to get Terry. At 74, that much driving is exhausting. We bought a new truck in 2020, and I'll tell you — we've put some miles on it.
My granddaughter wanted to play softball. But with me spending so much time driving Terry to treatment, it was impossible. Watching her give that up so their grandpa could be healthy was hard. I love to bake bread with the grandkids and cook dinners for them, but those things started slipping away while dialysis took over our lives. It wasn't just affecting us. It was affecting our whole family.
Training on home dialysis was scary
Eventually, someone mentioned home dialysis. I'm not a nurse, and I've never been one. I had no desire to help a machine clean my husband's blood. But after 55 years, when push comes to shove, you do what you have to do.
The effort was worth it once Terry was able to do treatments right in his TV room. I had my life back and could be there for my grandkids. Terry felt better with this different type of dialysis. Previous treatments had left him exhausted and unable to talk, but with home dialysis, he was able to mow the lawn or build things with our grandson after treatments.
I was apprehensive about learning home dialysis at first, but now I'm proud of what I've learned. I can even run Terry's blood samples at home. I enjoy the look on people's faces when I tell them that I'm Terry's dialysis nurse now.
We're driving for treatment again but eager to be back to home dialysis
Unfortunately, after about six months, Terry had a health complication that meant we had to stop home dialysis for now. But he's almost healed, and we should be able to get back to home treatments soon. My hope is that before the frigid Midwestern winter kicks up, Terry will be back to home treatments. Driving so much in the snow can feel impossible.
Right now, we're waking up at 4 a.m. to get to dialysis at 6 a.m. Driving dark country roads in the early morning is scary — I'm always looking for deer. I can't wait to get Terry back to the home treatments that let us stay connected to our family and make the most of our remaining years together.
Read the original article on Insider