Thriving while on dialysis – with a fulfilling job

Balancing dialysis and work is not easy. However, being able to prove one’s capabilities and qualifications and pursue a successful career ensures a very positive quality of life for many patients with chronic kidney disease. In addition, a varied daily routine, financial independence and contacts with colleagues and business partners represent a welcome distraction. Doctors also confirm the positive effects of work on the body and psyche of dialysis patients.

It is possible to lead an active and fulfilling professional life, provided that the health of the patient and the working conditions fit together. Three patients with chronic kidney disease from three different countries volunteered to tell us about their experiences with haemodialysis while working full time.

Ciulică Nicolae

from Romania, 61 years old, is an electrical engineer in telecommunications and is currently working as a supervisor. Today, his grandchildren come first, but in earlier days, his hobbies were motor vehicles and trekking. Ciulică was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in 1985.

Hakan Kara

from Turkey, 49 years of age, owns a logistics company. He loves travelling and goes on vacation with his wife two or three times per year, though his true passion is cooking. In 2014, his physician discovered that Hakan’s kidneys were functioning at a capacity of only 15%.

Stjepan Pešt

from Croatia, 50, was diagnosed with glomerulonephritis at the early age of two. Despite constant medical check-ups, he experienced complete kidney failure in 1986. Nonetheless, he finished high school and now works as an accountant. Stjepan enjoys gardening and tending to his family’s poultry and pigs, being in the fresh air.

Reconciling a job with regular haemodialysis treatment

Ciulică: The first dialysis period back in the eighties was quite challenging. I was on haemodialysis for ten years before I received a kidney transplant which served me for 18 years. Despite little ups and downs due to age-related comorbidities I feel very well in my current dialysis programme. During these periods, I never stopped working, and my position is not physically demanding, which encouraged me to stay in my job.

Hakan: During the first year of dialysis, I panicked so much that I became anxious about my health and stopped working. I was treated in another clinic first. With my transition to Fresenius Medical Care, the quality of dialysis increased. Feeling so vigorous after dialysis had a considerable impact on me returning to the job market and professional life. Undoubtedly, the treatment had a positive influence on the effectiveness of my work life since I usually feel healthy after dialysis. I work a lot to prevent myself from thinking about my illness. As I run my own business, I have the chance to determine my working hours and days off, which makes things easier. My job requires that I leave town regularly, so I organise dialysis days according to my travel schedule. Since Fresenius Medical Care has clinics in various cities in Turkey, our head nurse helps me schedule my appointments in other cities. Thus, I get my treatment when I have some free time from work.

Stjepan: When I had to start dialysis in 1986, I felt as if my whole world was falling apart. I was only 18, after all. Luckily, I always handled dialysis well and got a lot of help from the people around me. I worked full time with a perfectly functioning kidney transplant for 15 years, but had to go back on haemodialysis in 2012. I love working and being useful to those around me. However, I am currently on sick leave until I receive a new kidney, since I can’t get dialysed at night, and my work requires daytime hours. In Croatia, you either have to work or be on sick leave, as healthcare does not provide specific options for combining work with time on dialysis.

Overcoming the challenges of combining haemodialysis with work

Ciulică: The greatest challenge is travelling around the country, something that my position requires. But I like my job and travelling motivates me even more. Also, when I was first diagnosed, I talked about it as straightforwardly as possible to establish communication. My employer was very supportive, I even got financial help when I had my transplant.

Hakan: When I go to dinner with my customers close to my dialysis day and do not pay attention to my liquid consumption, I may experience fatigue. In such a case, which is rare, I ask our chief nurse to reschedule my session to an earlier time, availability provided. Most of the time I don’t experience any difficulties, though. My team helps me a lot and supports me in ensuring that my absence during my dialysis days does not harm the business.

Stjepan: All of my acquaintances, clients and colleagues know about my health problems. Many of them were interested to learn more about kidney disease. So, when we meet, there is no need for explanations as to why I cannot or should not do something.

Speaking from experience: Suggestions on how to continue working during dialysis

Ciulică: I advise everybody who can continue working to do so. People will feel more energetic, they will have significant accomplishments, and time will pass faster. During my first dialysis period, although I was not feeling well, I did not quit my job.

Hakan: Especially for people with chronic illnesses like us, it is essential to remain active. Employees can plan their dialysis sessions according to their working hours or go on home dialysis. Remaining a contributing member of society, especially for my country, motivates me. I recommend this to all dialysis patients.

Stjepan: I think the most important thing is coming to terms with everything. I never think of myself as a gravely ill person, tied to his house and bed. On the contrary, I think the best medicine is to be cheerful, open and in touch with people. Enjoy every new day and look forward to the little things.

Thank you,
Ciulică, Hakan and Stjepan for sharing your personal experiences. They will be an inspiration for many!