For most people, kidney dialysis conjures up images of hospital wards, with rows of bed-bound patients hooked-up to machines for long periods of time.
But as technology has advanced, and the benefits of out-of-hospital care have become more apparent, many patients with kidney disease have opted for home dialysis.
Sixty-year-old Ken Johns is one such patient. Now retired and living with wife Maggie in Kennington, Ashford, the former oil industry worker and father-of-two has a long history of kidney failure.
Spending most of working life in the Asia-Pacific area, Ken was told that he had uric acid kidney stones in while in Singapore in 1994. But when he moved to Perth, Australia, he was told that he had cysteine stones that had scarred his kidneys.
In 2007, Ken was diagnosed with cancer in one of his kidneys. This had to be removed, but seven years later, cancer appeared in his second kidney, which also had to be operated on.
Ken had started to receive dialysis in 2005, but because of the cancers, and cross-border legislation in Asia, a transplant was never a straightforward option.
When Ken returned to the UK permanently in 2015, he was referred to East Kent Hospitals by his GP, and went on the waiting list for self-dialysis.
“In December 2015 I received training at the William Harvey,” said Ken, “and went between Canterbury and Ashford for dialysis in the meantime.”
He added: “It was amazing when I was told that I could have home dialysis. The plumber came in after the machine was delivered, the water was checked and Maggie and I were fully trained.”
Ken is on the list to receive a transplant, but appreciates that there is no quick fix, and in the meantime, values the freedom and flexibility that home dialysis can give him.
“It’s great,” he said. “I can choose when I want to do it – sometimes it’s in the morning or early evening.”
Ken’s self-dialysis regime is 3.5 hours per session, totalling 13.5 hours a week. And Ken and Maggie have also converted one small room in their house, which accommodates the dialysis machine.
Maggie said: “We made the room where Ken has his dialysis as clinical as possible, so it resembles a hospital room is tidy, and completely separate from the rest of the house.”
Ken added: “I can just get on with life – as long as there’s a bit of forward planning. But I must admit, I couldn’t do it without Maggie – it’s a team job.”
Ken has to be careful with is diet, and there are certain foods that he has to avoid, such as bananas. He also has to make sure that his diet is low in salt and some alcoholic drinks such as beer or wine. But being able to manage his own treatment in an out-of-hospital setting has liberated Ken.
The extra energy has given him more time to concentrate on what the likes doing – instead of spending time travelling back and forth to hospital.
Ken said: “I still have to go to see a specialist once every three months for monitoring, and once every six months, a technician carious out a service on the dialysis machine.”
But apart from that, Ken feels that he’s in control. He can even log online to see the data analysis of his blood tests without leaving his front room.
All of this has undoubtedly contributed to his sense of wellbeing.
“I’m feeling good,” he smiled.