A couple weeks ago, I had the extraordinary opportunity of interviewing Sammi Rivera from Fighting to Live. Sammi is not only brimming with positive energy, but she is smart, savvy, and hardworking. Her YouTube channel, Fighting to Live, struck me as an interesting creative outlet for someone undergoing dialysis (especially because I have yet to film my first YouTube video).
Sammi first came onto my radar when she liked my page on Facebook, but I didn’t realize that I had already connected with her on Instagram. I checked out her YouTube channel, and as soon as I realized that she also lived in the Portland, OR metro, I knew that I wanted to interview her. I secretly hoped that I would get the chance to interview her while she was receiving hemodialysis, something I had never seen before first hand, so when she suggested it to me, I jumped at the opportunity.
She filmed the interview for her YouTube channel, which you can watch above, so rather than recount what you can (and should) just watch for yourselves, I am going to talk about my experience in the hemodialysis clinic.
First off, all visitors must wear paper gowns. I assume this is a preventive measure to protect against infection, but I was stunned that no one wears face masks. The dialysis techs, when cannulating or removing the needles, wear a plastic face shield, but not even the patient has to wear a face mask. Also, the patient doesn’t have to wear a paper gown, and I assume this is because they are more concerned about foreign flora mixing with the patient’s exposed blood. The patient does, however, need to wear a glove when holding the bandage against their fresh wound.
I arrived after Sammi was already hooked up to the dialysis machine, so I was a little bummed to have missed that, but the clinic gave us the use of a private room, so we could film the interview without the noise of machines whirring and beeping. The interview was interrupted a few times because of a high blood pressure alarm. The nurses quickly came into the room to reset the machine, and then we were at it again.
After the interview, I stuck around for a bit to chat with Sammi about Social Security and just about life in general with ESRD and dialysis. One of the techs asked me about my dialysis when the topic was broached. The staff are all very friendly, and it is obvious that they care about the patients they serve.
Sammi told me that rather than waste her time watching TV while doing dialysis, she spends her time writing and developing television program ideas. She is still very much plugged into the entertainment industry she was forced to leave when she first started experiencing the symptoms of kidney disease. She hopes to return to television producing in the future.
The hours had flown by (Sammi is a lot of fun to talk to), and I was just about to leave, when she started feeling intense pain down the length of her fistula arm. A tech came in to try and straighten it out, but the pain continued. Sammi described it as if it felt that one of the needles was pressing into her vein. This caused pain to radiate down her arm towards her fingers. After the techs fiddled with the needles some more, the pain became unbearable for Sammi, so she asked to cut the treatment short.
If the look of anguish on her face was any indication of the pain she was enduring, I held no envy for her. In that moment, I was very happy that I chose peritoneal dialysis. I don’t know that I could endure being stabbed with huge needles three times a week (more for people who do home hemo). What respect I had for Sammi doubled or tripled in that instant, as I tried my best to not interrupt the techs as they were working to remove the hemodialysis needles.
Sammi is someone worth watching on YouTube. She doesn’t sugar coat things, but shows the reality of what life is like for someone on hemodialysis and waiting to be listed for a kidney transplant. This girl has her dukes up, and she truly is Fighting to Live.