A Military Veteran’s Commitment to Thrive

Joe Hullaby

Joe Hullaby knows a lot about staying calm and disciplined during stressful situations. He retired from the US Army in 2000 as Seargent First Class after serving his country for 26 years. Joe’s specialty was refueling Chinook helicopters—a duty he performed while stationed in the combat zones of Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. “Some days I wanted to get out of the service and come home. Though every time I went home to visit, I knew I had a job to do and I returned to duty.” Now at 65, Joe still lives by the words his father repeated to him as he was growing up, “if you do something, stick with it.” After the military, Joe went back to school and earned a college degree while working as a security guard. Today, he embraces life with his family and runs a photography business while keeping up with dialysis treatments. Joe’s lifelong sense of commitment is what keeps him focused on what's important.

A history of medical conditions and a new diagnosis

Joe was diagnosed with high blood pressure while serving in the military and it began to affect his kidney function. Shortly after he left the military, he learned he had diabetes. The combination of conditions further affected his kidneys and Joe was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. True to his nature, Joe asked his doctor questions and did his best to manage his health. Eventually, his kidneys could no longer function and Joe was diagnosed with kidney failure.

Kidney failure diagnosis and big decisions

In 2018, Joe’s doctor told him he needed to start dialysis. With the true grit of a vet, Joe approached the news with determination. “I knew I wanted to keep living and I was determined to find the best method for me to continue to enjoy my life and family.” Joe chose home peritoneal dialysis (PD) so he could treat on his own schedule. “I set up my machine at 7 p.m., get on it at 10 p.m. and go to sleep. By 7 a.m. I unhook it and I go about my day,” Joe said. 

Joe credits his wife, 4 sons, 4 grandsons, his doctor and a supportive care team for helping him stay consistent with his home dialysis schedule. He hasn’t missed a single treatment in the past year—even while traveling. “I pretty much do anything I want,” Joe shared. “I still own a local photography business—and I am always there for my clients to capture the special moments.”

Taking another health challenge in stride

Two months after Joe began his dialysis treatments, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Facing cancer meant adding a whole new type of treatment to his schedule, which made Joe especially grateful for the flexibility of home dialysis. PD allowed him to travel to his cancer treatment clinic for 7 rounds of radiation while continuing on dialysis—and, happily, Joe is now in remission from cancer. He hopes to become a candidate for a kidney transplant in the future, though he knows he has a wait ahead of him. He said, “I feel so good that I could still be on home dialysis for 20 more years if I have to be. I’m that committed to my health.”

Belief in the power of positivity and discipline

Joe wants people who are considering home dialysis to know that they can do it. “If you stay healthy and eat right and are surrounded by a strong support system, you’ll do great,” he said. Making it your duty to protect your health also helps. “My military background helped me to stay on course no matter what new curve came my way.” Spoken like a true veteran.


 November 2019

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