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Dialysis more than just a treatment to Brzezinski

Patient Name: Don Brzezinski

Don Brzezinski started undergoing dialysis treatments at Aspirus Wausau Hospital Kidney Care in 2006 and his life has improved dramatically.

The 68-year-old has diabetes, hypertension and chronic kidney disease, but his dialysis treatments keep him active and allow him to continue to work part-time at Peterson Kramer Funeral Home.

“I never knew how bad I was until I started dialysis,” Brzezinski said. “I thought everything was done and I wouldn’t be able to do anything, but I have so much more energy and feel so much better because of it (dialysis).”

Like most dialysis patients, the Wausau native was scared and didn’t know much about the treatment. Before beginning treatments, he closely monitored his ailments knowing it was inevitable that he would have to undergo dialysis at some point. Brzezinski and his doctors made the decision to start treatments early, before his health really started to deteriorate.

“I am glad I went on dialysis early and people should really be aware of the benefits of getting started early before you get really sick,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect, but all the doctors explained everything so well it kind of eased my mind.”

Brzezinski receives treatments three days a week, with each session lasting up to four hours in length. His first experiences were frustrating because the fistula, the construction of an artery to a vein, failed. Fistulas allow for faster, and often times easier dialysis treatments.

Doctors’ unsuccessful attempts at drafting a fistula resulted in Brzezinski having to use a catheter for his initial treatments.

“It was pretty disappointing when the fistulas didn’t work, but after a few tries they (the doctors) finally got one to work, so now it only takes about 5 minutes to get hooked up and start treatments,” Brzezinski said. “I would get pretty down when there were setbacks like that, but I am lucky to have Julie (his wife), who was always there and giving me encouragement.”

Brzezinski is now using his experiences and knowledge to help others learn about dialysis and quell and fears people may have about the treatment.

In March of 2008, he traveled to Washington D.C. as a Wisconsin representative for the National Kidney Foundation to meet with politicians and their aids in an attempt to raise money and awareness about kidney disease, dialysis and the importance of detecting kidney problems early.

“We asked for support and for an extra $1 million in 2009 for early detection,” he said in reference to the annual $2 million grant the National Kidney Foundation receives. “I really believe in early detection (of kidney problems) and how beneficial dialysis is.”

As a Wisconsin Kidney Foundation representative, Brzezinski met with many of the state’s representatives including Dave Obey, who is the Chairman of the Committee of Appropriations, which makes funding decisions on every discretionary program in the federal budget.

“I really think we will get the extra $1 million,” Brzezinski said. “The feedback we got was good and some of the aids were real anxious to discuss it with the representatives.”

Created: Jan 27, 2009

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