Tom shares dialysis journey after cancer

Kidney disease is a global health issue

TOM Vlaeminck spends three days a week hooked up to a machine substituting the job of a kidney.

The 74-year-old former butcher is a renal dialysis patient at Bendigo Health and wanted to share his story as part of Kidney Health Week, marked from May 25 to May 31.

"I retired 10 years ago and I probably had four or five good years," Mr Vlaeminck said.

"Then one day I found I had blood in my urine so I went to my doctor and they found that I had cancer in the kidney.

"They took that out and I was going well with one kidney for about two years.

"Then they found three tumours in the other kidney.

"I was sent to Melbourne and they took the three tumours out and left me with 25 per cent of one kidney."

But in May last year doctors discovered more cancer.

PATIENT: Tom Vlaeminck has dialysis three times a week. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

PATIENT: Tom Vlaeminck has dialysis three times a week. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

"They took the lot so I'm left with nothing now," Mr Vlaeminck said.

"So then I was on dialysis - it takes out all the rubbish that the kidney's usually take because I don't pass urine any longer and that gets rids of all your potassium and all the salt and rubbish."

Mr Vlaeminck said going to dialysis took a bit to get his head around.

"But we've got there now," he said.

"It keeps you alive and that's the main thing.

"It's three days a week and by the time I leave home and get a car park and get put on the machine then do my four and a half hours, which is my allotted time, it's approximately six hours.

"We just look at it as a bit of work.

"It was a big adjustment but I am getting used to it now."

Mr Vlaeminck said staff at Bendigo Health were wonderful and he had come to know the other patients well.

"There is two shifts - we do a morning shift and an afternoon shift," he said.

"There's 13 machines, so there's 13 people on the morning shift and 13 people in the afternoon shift.

"I"m 74 but there are younger people up there too.

"There are people up there and their kidney's have gone because of sugar and there are people who's kidney's are functioning a little bit.

"Then there are others who were born with only one kidney.

"There's a lot of different stories."

Mr Vlaeminck said along with dialysis he'd had to make major lifestyle changes.

"We have to watch what we eat, very much so," he said.

"You can't have potassium, which is a big thing, I haven't had a banana for months.

"I guess the message is, look after yourself and if you notice something out of the ordinary, then go to your doctor and get it checked out."


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