Even though he spends 18 hours a week sitting and receiving dialysis treatment at Fresenius Medical Services in Waxahachie, Jerry Hull of Milford refuses to let his treatment deter him from participating in the physical activities that have become an important part of his life.
“I’ve been on dialysis for about two months now,” Hull said. “It was hard at first, but I’m making friends here. People are fantastic.”
Hull, 61, experienced kidney failure due to hypertension and has three six-hour dialysis treatments per week at Fresenius Medical Services in Waxahachie, an outpatient dialysis clinic.
“If I get a kidney soon, I may be able to come off. If not, I’ll probably be doing this the rest of my life,” Hull said. “I don’t like it — I don’t like being here, but it beats the alternative.”
During a recent treatment, Hull sat in a green recliner with tubes running from his chest to a dialysis machine. Hull was one of many patients in the clinic for treatment — some with family, some alone. Each station is equipped with a small, flat-screen television, which most patients were utilizing the help pass the time. Others napped or read during their treatment. On this day, Hull dedicated some of his time to talk about retaining his busy lifestyle, regardless of the hours he spends at the clinic.
Hull is a very active person, frequently traveling with his wife, Grace Champagne-Hull, volunteering at the Dallas VA medical facility three days a week, skiing, hand cycling and participating in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
“I do my wheelchair sports — swim, hand cycle, ski, air rifle,” Hull said. “I used to lift weights. I’m going to get back into it.”
Hull served with the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War era and is an amputee (left leg above the knee). Hull was injured in Florida during his 23-month service.
“It was very short, very limited,” Hull said of his service. “But I wish I was still in. I’ve been out since 1968.”
Last month’s 27th annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Milwaukee, Wis., was Hull’s second time to compete in the games. Hull received silver medals in bowling and air guns competition.
“Most of us don’t care if we win or anything. We just like to have an excuse to get together,” Hull said. “I enjoy the camaraderie. I miss so many people and I get to see so many people. We kind of sit and compare notes on how to do things.”
During the games, Hull had an opportunity to speak to a fellow veteran who was scheduled to start dialysis treatments.
“I met a man who was about to go on dialysis, so we sat down for about an hour and I told him what to expect,” Hull said.
During the games, Hull still had to receive his weekly doses of dialysis. With 1,500 Fresenius Medical Services clinics in the nation, Hull was able to schedule dialysis treatments while in Milwaukee.
“At the games, I just had to have my dialysis set up,” Hull said. “I’m lucky that they have dialysis centers around the world. It’s real easy with (Fresenius Medical Services) for me to go somewhere.
“I can come in early on Saturday mornings and get the treatment over with and then I have a three-day break,” Hull said. “I can go home, get the camper and drive. I just have to be back here on Tuesday.”
Hull’s experiences with dialysis and Fresenius Medical Services contrast with his predetermined notions of what dialysis would entail.
“I thought it was going to be very confining to where I wouldn’t be able to do anything. I thought it was going to be much more painful. I’d heard a lot of horror stories about how bad you feel,” Hull said. “But I feel better now than when I started.”
Each patient of Fresenius Medical Services in Waxahachie receives the benefits of the onsite nutritionist and social worker, as well as the nurses who become friends during the long treatments.
“We try to help them know what resources are there so they can solve their problems,” Linda Arage, Fresenius Medical Services social worker said. “The goal is for them to live as normal a life as possible. We help them get past being a person with a disease to be back to themselves. They’re pretty inspirational once they get back to themselves.”
Knowing dialysis treatments would prevent him from skiing, Hull postponed the start of his treatments until after the 2007 National Veterans Winter Sports Games held in Aspen in April.
“I put off starting dialysis to go skiing. You can’t ski when on dialysis because of the altitude,” Hull said. “It’s a lot of fun. We take over Snowmass. Usually so many of us go at one time and we just have a ball. We do things most people don’t think we should do. We have to show our therapists we can still do things.”
As much fun as Hull had during the event, he also experienced negative effects of putting off his dialysis treatments.
“I went to the hospital twice while I was there. When I got back, I immediately started dialysis,” Hull said.
Hull can identify many positives that have come of the treatments, including increased appetite.
“I had lost my appetite and didn’t eat. Now I eat everything in sight,” Hull said.
Hull remains dedicated to his sporting events, with plans to go to the Golden Age Games in August.
“I just want to keep competing. I just want to keep doing my sports,” Hull said, adding that he has big plans if he receives a new kidney. “I want to try out for the (Paralympics).”
“It’s good to have a good support system — they need to be here and they need to have someone supporting them,” Arage said. “They can go back to work. I had a patient ask me recently about going to college. They need to continue with their life goals.”
Hull is on the transplant list and knows that it could be a few years before he ever receives a kidney.
“They told me it would be a minimum of three years, unless I had someone donate one,” Hull said. “I’ve heard of people being on there for years and some two or three months, it’s just when the right one comes along for you.”
Hull is not letting life pass by while he waits for a new kidney — he attacks each day with a fervor to improve his health, along with the health of others. He willingly offers advice for those facing the start of dialysis treatments.
“Don’t put it off. Get started as soon as you can. Don’t be afraid — it’s no big deal,” Hull said. “It’s not life ending, you just have to make adjustments.”
E-mail Mandy at firstname.lastname@example.org.