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World Kidney Day 2021

Home dialysis helps patients live well with kidney disease.

Woman in a hospital bed with dialysis machine
SydneyConnect Image: Jenny Skentzos

Jenny Skentzos' life has been turned upside down.

"It all started about six months ago… I was constantly feeling fatigued, having body aches, a metallic taste in the mouth and forgetfulness. I was diagnosed with end stage kidney disease. That's when my life really changed," she said.

Jenny has lived with chronic kidney disease for the past 20 years - working as an executive assistant, running five-kilometres a week and enjoying a busy social life.

Now her disease has progressed and she's having dialysis for up to five hours a day four days a week at RPA's Kidney Centre.

Today, Sydney Local Health District is marking World Kidney Day. This year's theme is "Living Well with Kidney Disease."

Research conducted by the team at RPA has shown that 10 per cent of Australian adults have chronic kidney disease, and that about 25,000 Australians with end-stage kidney failure, like Jenny, are kept alive by dialysis or transplantation.

Dialysis is one form of treatment where a machine does the work of the kidneys - getting rid of excess water and waste from the blood.

Jenny is learning how to perform dialysis at home via a special unit at RPA.

"Home dialysis is recommended for most patients as it improves their engagement and knowledge of their treatment. It is also much more convenient for them," Professor Steve Chadban, RPA's Director of Renal Medicine, said.

"These factors contribute to improving clinical outcomes and empowering our patients to live well with chronic kidney disease," he said.

As part of her training program, Jenny is learning how to insert her own dialysis needles, set up and connect to the dialysis machine and trouble shoot any issues that may arise at home.

"All training patients need to be competent with all the procedures associated with haemodialysis prior to going home. No one is sent home until they are confident in managing their treatment safely at home," Youn Park a Home Therapies Clinical Nurse Consultant, said.

First, Jenny had to overcome a fear of needles.

"But, now I can cannulate my own arm with a bit of local anaesthetic. It's been a struggle adjusting to this new way of life. But I'm very excited to start home dialysis without having to go into a hospital setting four times a week," she said.

Jenny is on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. Her long term goal is to travel to Greece for a holiday.

"The enthusiasm and positive attitude of patients like Jenny drives us to continually seek better outcomes for our patients," Professor Chadban said.