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A Well Made Decision

The Helen Jones Story

My name is Helen Jones. I am a 62 year old, African American female who lives in Desoto, Mo. I am a dialysis patient and cancer survivor. I have a strong support system which consists of my husband, two adult children, my brother and sister-in-law, one granddaughter and four grandsons. I am a patient at the Fresenius Medical Care unit located in Festus, Missouri.

I have a strong family history of diabetes and hypertension. Unfortunately, in my case, bad eating habits and poor weight management led to adult onset (type 2) diabetes and eventually, renal failure.

Looking back on my life, I remember being constantly told by my mother and brothers to watch what and how much I ate and to control my weight. My mother, Clara Franklin, was a severe diabetic. She rapidly showed signs of the negative effect it could have on your health. For example she had an open sore on her left leg that would not heal no matter how many skin grafts were performed. In the 1960’s treatment for diabetes was different and not as advanced as it is now. She was never prescribed proper medication even though insulin was readily available. At the early age of 39 my mother had a diabetic heart attack and passed away in my arms.

At 34 years of age I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. My first treatment was oral medication. I did not change my body image by correcting my diet or exercising. I would lose 10 pounds only to gain 15. I continued to go downhill and after two years was prescribed three injections of insulin a day. At this time hypertension was not an issue, or so I thought. Home tests are very useful in monitoring your blood pressure throughout the day. My kidneys were being damaged since high blood pressure was not detected at my quarterly or at annual visits with the doctor.

My best friend, Barbara Charlene Covington, was a charge nurse at a dialysis unit in St. Louis, Mo. She would ask about my creatinine levels and would tell me that they were too high. She told me that dialysis would probably be in my future.

I did not want to think about that, so I pushed thatthought out of my mind. I was being treated by a nephrologist and thought that was enough to prevent total renal failure from happening to me. Charlene (as the family called her), as well as my doctor told me that I was in ‘renal insufficiency’ and heading towards complete renal failure. I said, “I would rather die than take dialysis.” Well, that later proved not to be true. One day in early October 2008 Charlene took me on a trip with her during which she answered every question and fear that I had about dialysis. I then understood much more about how the kidneys regulate different organs in the body and I am still learning to this day. The trip was like a private training session on renal failure and how it leads to dialysis. Charlene told me that I needed to listen to my doctor and to consider starting dialysis to maintain some quality of life.

When we returned after that great ‘mini seminar’ I felt more at ease about starting dialysis. I told my doctor about my trip and that I was ready when she felt it was necessary. Within three weeks I had my dialysis access site surgically placed and subsequently started dialysis.

I have been on hemodialysis at Fresenius Medical Care since November 2008. I sometimes talk to new patients in the waiting room if they look worried or if they ask me a few questions about what it’s like to be on dialysis. I let them know that they will adjust and that it is not as bad as they think it will be. Unfortunately, my best friend, Charlene, died suddenly in January of 2013. She was dedicated to her craft, her patients and to me. I will always thank her and miss her. Because of her persistence and compassion, dialysis was a well-made decision for me. In fact, the only decision that was right for me.