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Meet a Care Partner at the Heart of Home Dialysis

A supportive care partner—a loved one or trusted friend—is an important part of many people’s home dialysis care team. For Paul Caro, relying on his wife Tammy has been key to helping him thrive. She assists with his home hemodialysis treatments, keeps him motivated, and helps him stay as healthy as possible. When asked about her role, Tammy says, “I support him however he needs. I guess that’s all you can do for anybody, for better or for worse. I know he would do the same for me.”

On This Journey Together

Tammy has been Paul’s care partner for a long time. Several years ago, Paul had a massive heart attack. He then suffered a series of strokes, had a leg amputated, and had a device placed in his heart to support its function. These medical events were very stressful, both physically and emotionally. As Tammy puts it, “It was dumped on us all at once. You can’t really explain it until you’ve gone through it.”

Eight years later, Paul had a heart transplant. The surgery was successful, but in his case, the procedure was long and difficult. Heart health and kidney health are very closely related, and unfortunately, his kidneys became damaged.

After surgery, Paul gradually started noticing signs of kidney disease. “This wasn’t something that happened all of a sudden,” Paul says. “Little by little, I was feeling more and more tired. My ‘get up and go’ got up and left.” His nephrologist (kidney doctor) recommended dialysis. Paul knew Tammy would stay by his side through thick and thin, so instead of having treatments done in a dialysis center, they decided they would rather take control of his kidney care at home.

Getting Comfortable with Home Dialysis

As a care partner, Tammy has an important role in Paul’s home dialysis treatments. Tammy worked in medical billing, but she didn’t have experience with hands-on healthcare. She says she felt nervous at first, but the home dialysis training program built her confidence.

“When we first came into the dialysis center, everything looked overwhelming, but the home training nurse explained what everything does,” Tammy says. Soon, she got into the groove of performing dialysis treatments. “There’s a very methodical process when you’re setting things up. People catch on quickly and it’s the same every time. I figure if I can do it, anyone can do it.”

Home hemodialysis training typically takes four to six weeks and can continue until each person feels confident. “The home dialysis training nurses don’t let you go until you’re comfortable—until you feel like you can do it yourself,” says Tammy. She and Paul have access to plenty of training resources including videos, e-learning courses, games, and much more. They also know help is available 24/7. Tammy adds, “Even when you’re home, you’re not really by yourself. You can always get ahold of the care team for help. They’re always available for questions, phone calls, or texts.”

Settling into A New Routine

Comfort, convenience, and flexibility are important to Paul and Tammy. With home dialysis as part of their routine, they enjoy relaxing at home and keeping up with their daily lives.

Once the treatment is set up, Tammy takes advantage of this extra time to catch up on chores. “I can load the dishwasher or get dinner together while he’s dialyzing in the other room,” she says. Meanwhile, she uses the provided tablet to monitor Paul’s numbers and helps with treatments when he needs it. “There’s a lot more that you can accomplish with home dialysis, and it just gets easier the more you do it.”

Now that they’re more comfortable with home dialysis, Paul and Tammy are excited to enjoy their future together. Thanks to the relative portability of home dialysis, they’re planning on traveling, taking vacations, and celebrating their daughter’s upcoming wedding. “We can take the machine with us and all the supplies will be sent to wherever we’re going,” Tammy explains. “You’re not tied to a dialysis center, so you can travel when you want to take a break. It gives you a little freedom to relax.”

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Today, Paul is on the kidney transplant list and stays healthy thanks to home hemodialysis treatments—and constant support from his care partner and wife. To stay motivated and positive, Tammy says, “You just take one day at a time. You take a good part out of every day and you look forward to getting him better.”

Tammy and Paul are glad they started with home dialysis first. Like many care partners, Tammy gained confidence from the training program and encourages other care partners to give it a try. “Believe in yourself because you can do it,” she says. “Let the nurses show you how everything works and give yourself that allowance to learn. Once you get into the swing of things, you start to relax a little bit and say to yourself, ‘I can do this.’”

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