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Three Years of Dialysis | An Anniversary of Drain Pain

It was three years ago today that I walked into my dialysis clinic to begin my training for peritoneal dialysis. So this is sort of my dialysiversary, if you will. It is also the anniversary of my feeling drain pain for the first time, but more on that later. I was fortunate to have had a good doctor who had been monitoring my condition and started me on dialysis before I started feeling any symptoms of kidney disease. My glomerular filtration rate (GFR) was at 14 for a year before I started dialysis, and anything below 15 is considered end stage renal (kidney) disease (Wikipedia.com/chronic kidney disease).

I walked into the dialysis clinic, not sure what to expect. I had been there the week before to have my catheter flushed, but this was different — I was nervous. The nurse that trained me on dialysis was an earthy middle-aged lady, burly but kind. I think the fact that she was earthy made me feel more comfortable with her and made the whole process of starting dialysis easier. She felt like a distant aunt, helping me to learn how to tie my shoes rather than a nurse teaching me to perform a life-saving medical treatment.

This was the day that I first learned about the term “drain pain.” In peritoneal dialysis, drain pain is a strong suction or pulling sensation that to me feels like someone is pinching my urethra from the inside. It happens to me when I am nearing the end of my drain. During my first drain, I sat up suddenly, very uncomfortable, and my nurse asked me if I was feeling drain pain. I thought that I just needed to urinate very badly, but after I urinated and we tried again, I still felt the pain.

At first the pain was excruciating. Before I started on the cycler, I was doing manual exchanges for a month, and I often had to slow my drains to make myself more comfortable. Gradually the pain became less, and once I started on the cycler, I rarely felt any pain. Today, the small amount of pain that I feel is just an indicator that I am almost done draining and can get on with my day. It became a good thing!

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