I love strawberries, chocolate and fizzy pop, but can’t indulge at Christmas
For the last two years, Paige has been living with the realities of dialysis, finding out just how disruptive the treatment can be for a young adult. The 17-year-old was born prematurely and needed an operation which unfortunately put pressure on her kidneys.
While on holiday at the age of 15, Paige was told that she might be heading towards renal failure but despite the advanced warning, nothing could have prepared the family for the change in Paige’s life.
“Initially you do feel very upset because you are told that you will be on a machine until you are able to find a suitable donor,” Paige said. “There is a lot of information that gets thrown at you at the very first stage and it can be difficult to get your head around what you should and should not do. It is so easy to make mistakes.”
Restrictions at Christmas
Christmas for Paige now involves restricting her diet and scheduling the festive activities around her essential dialysis treatment.
“Last Christmas we really wanted to go to London and make a day of it while all the lights were up, but dialysis got in the way. I even had to dialyse on Christmas Eve which really dampened the Christmas feeling. It’s difficult to feel all festive when you are exhausted after nearly three hours of treatment.
“That said, the ward itself is not so bad, I am the youngest there and all the older people look after me, it makes me feel like I have a room full of grans and grandads all looking out for me.”
For Paige’s mum Laura, her daughter’s restrictive dialysis diet was initially difficult to get to grips with.
“We were just shocked at how many foods Paige was no longer allowed to eat and it took us a while to get on top of her diet,” she explained “There are some items like fizzy pop for example that you would never consider to be restricted, but we found out she could no longer have it. I think it is particularly difficult for teenagers because all the information is aimed at the older generation, so you look at the meals suggested and think, she’d never eat that! Of course, you just have to get into good habits, and we eventually found our rhythm.”
Difficulties of dialysis
Paige has had to give up many of her favourite foods to remain healthy and finds it especially difficult to help others to understand just how difficult dialysis can be.
“Strawberries, fizzy pop and chocolate are all things that I really miss, and I’d love to indulge in them at Christmas time! I don’t think people really know enough about dialysis, I get people ask me, ‘why are you doing dialysis over Christmas? Can’t you take a few days off?’ as if my kidneys can suddenly start working again because it’s Christmas.”
Paige has not taken dialysis lying down however and has turned her situation into a positive outlook of volunteering. Helping out on the children’s ward has inspired the 17-year-old to make the first steps to pursue a career in nursing and has made the first steps. Now able to put herself on the dialysis machine and with a qualification in CPR, her remarkable efforts even led her to fundraise for her local renal unit, spreading joy with a summer time raffle.
For Laura however, Christmas is still difficult, but she believes the family have found strength in the increased bond they all have as a result of Paige’s kidney disease.
“Last year Paige was with her dad at the renal unit, and I was still at home making cookies with the kids. It was horrible because I do feel as if she is missing out, but her treatment has to come first. We are all in this together and we make sure that at mealtimes everyone is eating the same sort of thing. It has made Christmas a bit more special as we really appreciate the time we can spend together as a family. I think kidney disease has made us all understand the value of each other’s company, especially around the festive period.”
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