They don’t sit you down and tell you how to talk to your kids about kidney disease. We could probably seek counseling so we know the “best” way to validate their feelings. But, I know my kids pretty well. So far, we all seem to be handling the situation fine! Just because we handle it fine, does not mean we don’t struggle together.
Our oldest was eight months old when my husband began his hemodialysis. She does not remember a time when he was dialysis free. Our youngest has never been alive when her Dad did not have three day a week treatments. To the kids, this is life. They are so blessed to have a father that is not only a warrior for his health but also a hard worker who provides for his family. My husband is a healthy man. His doctors have said that if he did not have kidney failure, he would pass the physical for the Marines.
So, our daughters watch their Daddy, their hero, get up and go to treatments three days a week. They watch him come home and shoe a horse or work on fence. He rarely takes the time to recover from his treatments. He comes home and throws himself into his work because that is how he copes with his illness. And the kids see this. They think this is normal. A few years ago, our oldest told me that when she grew up, she wanted to go to dialysis just like Daddy. That was when I knew it was imperative I talk to them about dialysis and kidney disease and why their Daddy has to go to treatments.
As the girls get older, I explain more and more to them. They notice more. They notice how dialysis changes their daddy’s frame of mind. It is a fact that more than half of dialysis patients are on some form of antidepressant to help combat the depression that is a side effect. It’s not just depression though. It’s feelings of inadequacy. It is feeling weak as a result of the treatment. It is feeling guilty because when he comes home, he does not always have what it takes to do what he thinks needs to be done. The girls are getting old enough now they can see this battle within him. They see how he struggles.
Our oldest daughter sleeps with a pillow that says DaVita during the nights when he has treatments the next day. If she is going to be on Monday night and can’t find her DaVita pillow, she has a hard time dealing with it! That is her way of coping with her feelings. She understands how serious the illness is and being wiser than her years, I think it really weighs on her.
Our youngest knows he has treatments, the treatments keep daddy alive and he has them every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I don’t think she understands too much beyond that and that is okay for now.
Both girls realized only a year ago that not all daddy’s have dialysis. It was something I had to explain to them when they asked me about one of their best friends Daddy’s going to dialysis. They don’t know anyone besides their Dad with kidney failure and dialysis. I think that is hard on them sometimes.
Both my husband and I do the best we can to make sure they understand, from day to day, how his treatments are effecting him. He has good days and bad days after his treatments and for the first time in our marriage, his good days are outnumbering his bad! He is coming to peace with his condition and as a result, the girls are having an easier time coping as well. We take on the challenge of living well with kidney failure together as a family. We are stronger because of it, separately and as a unit.
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