Thriving After Nearly 40 Years as a Dialysis Patient

Celia Kanter was diagnosed with kidney failure in 1970. She was 30 years old, married and a new mother when doctors told her that her kidneys were not working properly. “I thought he was crazy! I said there’s nothing wrong with me,” Celia recalls telling the doctor.

How could there be anything wrong with her? She thought she was in great physical shape. She exercised daily, played tennis as often as she could and was studying to be a high school principal. She had energy and never felt sick.

However, a routine physical exam showed she had high blood pressure, and x-rays later showed her kidneys were the size of walnuts. The diagnosis: glomerulonephritis. Glomerulonephritis is a type of kidney disease in which the part of your kidneys that helps filter waste and fluids from the blood is damaged. Many times doctors don’t know the exact cause of glomerulonephritis and 25 percent of people who are diagnosed with the disease have no history of kidney disease. Celia thinks her kidney disease may have been brought on by a slight case of the scarlet fever when she was a child.

Celia had her first dialysis treatment in January 1978. Celia recalls the first time she received dialysis treatment, “It was horrible. I was shocked! I was a healthy person. I didn’t know what it was to be sick.”

Celia 1A kidney transplant was not an option for Celia. Her sister was tested to be a donor, but she was a ‘C’ match, which meant it wasn’t a very good kidney for Celia. “In those days, transplants weren’t so wonderful,” said Celia. “People were dying. And you had to take this medicine that ruined your immune system. I decided, you know what, forget the transplant. I never thought about a transplant again.”

Celia was on a mission to learn everything she could about dialysis. She asked her doctor for all his medical books, and she read them during her dialysis treatment. “I’m not one of these people who just sleeps while receiving dialysis. I don’t let the nurses or dialysis technicians touch me without first explaining to me what they are doing.” Celia says being active in her care and following a strict diet has been paramount in surviving on dialysis for so many years.

Celia also credits a busy career as part of her health success. After her kidney disease diagnosis, Celia decided to become an accountant and opened up her own firm. She says working gave her a sense of purpose and gave her something to look forward to. She worked as an accountant for 30 years before retiring two years ago. “I think everyone should work if they can. I know some people have other conditions that prevents them from working, but you have to do something with your time – your life.”

Celia continues to pass her knowledge on to fellow patients. She tells patients to learn as much as they can about their condition and stay involved in their care.

“My doctors mean well. I always say my doctors have hundreds of patients, I have one. When you’re on dialysis, you have to take care of yourself.”