Persons of African Descent, Diabetes and Dialysis

George Borden – Persons of African Descent, Diabetes and Dialysis

A patients Testimony…

“You are probably already aware that we of African descent are by far and away the most likely race to become diabetic.”
“I direct my remarks to persons of African descent, mainly the menfolk; but not to omit our sisters…”

Most people are aware of the common symptoms relating to diabetes, i.e. lack of energy, blurred vision, dramatic weight lost, frequent urination, etc. However, very few are aware that prolonged and untreated diabetes can, and frequently does, lead to loss of kidney function and eventually to dialysis.
Dialysis! What’s dialysis? If you don’t know what dialysis is, and you can’t spell it, then perhaps you should continue reading.
Dialysis is a medical treatment requiring that you be connected by needles or tubes to a free standing robotic-like machine designed to withdraw your blood, clean it and return it to you.
The standard process is three to five hours in duration, and must normally be performed three days a week. Doesn’t sound so comfortable or convenient does it? Well, it isn’t very comfortable or convenient to be lying or half-sitting in a fixed and passive position hooked up to a machine for that period of time. Such is the life of a dialysis patient. I’m a dialysis patient, so I know…
So why am I telling you this? Well, if you are of African descent, then you need to know what your chances are for becoming a “dialysis patient”.
You are probably already aware that we of African descent are by far and away the most likely race to become diabetic. All the research and statistics tell us so. That having been said, it therefore follows that we of African descent are at very high risk of experiencing prolonged and maybe inadequately treated diabetes culminating in the loss of kidney function resulting in life-long dialysis treatment. Remember what I said about the ills and woes of dialysis?
Let me tell you, I was totally surprised when I was informed that my kidneys were failing so badly that I would have to start dialysis. That came as a shock because I didn’t even know what dialysis was. In fact I couldn’t even spell it. Oh yes, I knew I was a diabetic; but I didn’t feel so unhealthy as to suffer kidney loss. I was wrong!
I was given three choices of dialysis treatment. One involved oversized needles in my arm (one in a vein, the other in an artery) which turned me off totally. Another involved a catheter permanently inserted in my abdomen, which would be connected to tubes by which urine is drained from the bladder. That made me most uncomfortable even to imagine. So, like “Goldie Locks”, I chose treatment number three, to me the least invasive and the least frightening.
My choice involves permanently inserting a catheter into the main blood vessel in my front right shoulder at the torso and neck line, leading to my head. Two tube-like lines are connected to the catheter, through which blood passes from and to my body. It is painless but extremely boring most of the time. The catheter is covered at all times to prevent infections. Now and again some incident may occur within my body or within the machine. Fortunately, there are competent nurses present to readjust and correct the process.

“We black Nova Scotians must be alert to the extremely high ratio of our men who fall prey to diabetes and subsequent kidney dysfunction resulting in renal dialysis treatment”

Because of my age and other medical issues, I am ineligible for a kidney transplant, so me and my machine will be a twosome to the end. As I hinted earlier, this is not a convenient or comfortable life-style and is totally void of personal independence. My travel life is extremely limited given that I must be near and hooked up to a dialyzer every other day. And, dialysis units are not like corner grocery stores, they are in fact few and far between.

I was, in the past, very active in all manner of events, festivals, sports, etc. But with so much of my time commanded by dialysis, I can only attend off-day happenings. Dialysis can also alter your meal time habits, at both ends of your treatment times. Equally distracting, is the stress, strain inconvenience placed on family members and caregivers required for transport to and from the dialysis unit. Again I direct my remarks to persons of African descent, mainly the menfolk; but not to omit our sisters, them as well. We are the product of our heritage which renders us most susceptible to diabetes, inadequate health care and eventual loss of kidney function…thus dialysis.

Consider this! In my little corner of the Dialysis Unit which I attend, there are six (6) of us (black males) each on a machine within an eight (8) hour period (2 shifts), three days a week. The maximum capacity for the unit is ten (10) per shift, while the average attendance is nine (9), so that is a max of twenty (20), and an average of 18, over eight (8) hours. So we folks of African descent comprises six (6) out of (18) patients, that is one third – 33%. Compare that with our population ratio of one thirtieth 3.3%. What’s wrong with this picture? Truly, cause for thought.
We black Nova Scotians must be alert to the extremely high ratio of our men who fall prey to diabetes and subsequent kidney dysfunction resulting in renal dialysis treatment. If you wish not to end your days in that situation, watch your blood sugars, listen to your physician, take care of your health and avoid one of the most inconvenient and uncomfortable medical afflictions you can imagine. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t live a relatively normal life on dialysis, but you will no longer hold control of your life, as you do now. Not something to look forward to. I tell you from firsthand experience. Don’t make the same mistake I made by not attending to personal health business, when I could have and should have done so. My best wishes to you! George A. Borden – Dialysis Patient