Hank’s Take: Coping After Kidney Failure

Henry Horner, known to friends as Hank, sits cupping a hot coffee, donning a slick Elvis Presley jacket and bearing a wide smile. It doesn’t take long before he’s greeting people he knows in the Seven Oaks General Hospital cafeteria.

It’s obvious Hank hasn’t let kidney disease keep him down, and he’s more than willing to share his outlook and his experiences. The former long-haul truck driver received the shock of a lifetime when his kidneys failed almost a decade ago. Plans for retirement and vacations to Florida ground to a halt.

“I was more or less in shock,” he remembers. Hank ended up in emergency after fainting while running errands with his wife. Both of his kidneys had shut down. He had to start emergency dialysis treatment, something he knew nothing about.

“I didn’t have a clue,” he says. Eventually he received a fistula, more comfortable than the catheter that was initially used, and reality started sinking in.
Hanks blames his routine use of a mild pain killer for his kidney failure. During the later part of his 47-year career as a truck driver, he would experience headaches when driving at night. He would take an over-the-counter medication to calm the headache.

“Pain killers in reasonable doses are fine, but when used daily or frequently they can pose a threat to kidney function,” explains St. Boniface Hospital nephrologist Dr. Justin Walters.

It took time but Hank adjusted to his new routine of hemodialysis treatments at Seven Oaks General Hospital, not far from his house. He was put on the transplant waiting list. Another plan, that was about to be cut short. He discovered blood in his urine.

After immediately phoning his doctor and taking a series of tests he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He went through surgery, chemotherapy and also used holistic medicines and is now in remission.

Medical complications, such as being treated for cancer, make patients temporarily ineligible for transplant. Once healthy and in the best possible condition to ensure a successful transplant, patients can resume their spot on the waiting list.

Hank’s since returned to his hobbies and picked up some new ones. He rides his bicycle, sometimes to his dialysis appointments, and fixes up bikes to be given to kids in need. He also added a motorcycle to his cycle fleet and started riding a couple of years ago.

He hasn’t considered home dialysis because he lives so close to the hospital and he finds the routine he has works just fine for him. “It’s a 10 minute bike ride for me.”
Hank credits his wife Anne with being a tremendous support and admits that while he has a positive outlook, adjusting to life on dialysis is not easy. “You’ve got to completely change your eating habits,” he says about one of the many ways lifestyle is affected by dialysis. He also started getting more active. When he sees new patients in the unit who are struggling, he tries to offer helpful advice because he knows what a scary time it can be.

Hank also credits staff with helping him on his journey – praising the nurses and doctors he’s encountered. Right now Hank’s plan is to enjoy life and stay healthy.

Story by Amie Lesyk

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