From patient to innovator

The story of Gal Hostnik

Every time we hear stories from our patients, we are inspired by their relentless efforts to lead a good life in spite of all the challenges they face. And sometimes we learn about a patient that simply amazes us. Gal Hostnik is one of them. Find out more about him – in his own words.

It’s tough when you are faced with kidney disease when you are still just a kid. Our Slovenian patient Gal Hostnik had to face it when he was just fourteen. What makes his story remarkable is how he reacted to this tough challenge.

Gal studied economics in Ljubljana and then used his experience and knowledge to become an entrepreneur and inventor. Today, he runs his own company “Cydney” with a bold mission: “to create a new way of treating kidney disease". But let him tell you all about it himself.

Growing up

When we are young, we have lots of plans for what we want to do in life. But sometimes life takes its own path, and we are forced to adapt to new circumstances. It’s difficult at first, and we struggle. Only when we learn to accept and adapt, inspiration can come, new ideas and creative powers can arise again – and even new meaning for our lives.

This is what happened to me. At a young age, I was struck by an illness that forced me to abandon the goals I had set for what I wanted to do in life – and start a new life, one that I could not have imagined.

I will never forget my first encounter with illness. It was Saturday morning, and I was ready to head off to summer scout camp. But instead, my parents had to take me to the hospital. The doctors told me that I had lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease.

I was 14, and the news turned my world upside down. The immunosuppressants caused my face to change shape. I’m sure you can imagine the effect on my self-image at this sensitive age. After three weeks in the hospital, I was free again – but only six months later I relapsed. Due to kidney failure, I had to go on dialysis. That’s when I first encountered hemodialysis.

Miraculously, my kidney recovered, and I was able to spend the next three and a half years as a normal teenager while attending high school. Now I know how lucky I was at that time – because at age 18, I ended up on dialysis again.

Trying to live

At the time, I thought that this was the worst thing that could happen to me, so I decided to have a transplant. I was so happy when they called me, and I rushed to the hospital thinking that I would finally be healthy. Unfortunately, that did not happen as my body did not accept the new kidney. I felt like I was always in the hospital – every time when the leucocytes dropped, and when I had pneumonia. In the end, the kidney finally failed to function. By that time, it was so bad that I wanted to go back to dialysis.

My life with dialysis is full of challenges, but I am grateful to be able to use my knowledge and the Fistula Protect project to improve the quality of life for dialysis patients. Although there are still many challenges ahead of me, I believe in the wisdom:

”When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” (Elbert Hubbard)

Facing reality

You will be able to imagine what followed. A feeling of hopelessness, of sadness and anger. But I had to face the reality of the situation, and with the support of my family and friends, I eventually began to accept my illness. It is true that I really wasn’t a lucky man during those years. But it was an enlightening time as well.

I learned to understand that dialysis is giving me back my quality of life. And I decided to add an extra hour to my schedule before and after dialysis. It stopped me from being in a hurry, and it made my life less stressful. I started to look at things in a different way, realizing that we don’t loose time in dialysis. The five hours we spend there give us many more hours to live.

A matter of perspective

Yes, dialysis comes with limitations. Taking care of fluids, phosphates and potassium, travelling, fistula care – it does have an impact on our freedom and spontaneity. But with a well-planned use of free time and a positive attitude, even these challenges are reduced.

I tried to find perspectives and possibilities within my life with dialysis. The time constraints that dialysis brings to your life made it difficult for me to find a job. My reaction to this: spending more time on my studies in economics.

It is possible to see the bright side of dialysis and realize its benefits. It stops one for a moment, it can put you in a state of calm, and an opportunity to reflect, learn and read. And to create. This is when I had the idea of developing a protector for my fistula.

From accident to invention

I put a lot of emphasis on doing things that I love during my precious free time. Like playing paintball. Yes, it’s an unusual thing to do for someone that lives with dialysis, but I didn’t want to stop playing. 

You know what was bound to happen. During one of those games, my AV fistula was hit by two coloured paint balls. Fortunately, there was no bleeding, but I realized that an active lifestyle can quickly lead to a more serious injury. I felt the need to protect my fistula.

The protector

In this moment I had the idea. I talked to my friends about it and we went to work.

With the help of 3D technology, we made a protector that fitted perfectly to my aneurysm. The protector is soft and pleasant to use but hard in the area of my aneurysms where protection is most crucial.

I started wearing the protector and soon there were other patients who needed such protection. We optimised the protector so it could be individualzed for every patient.

We gave it a simple name, Fistula Protect, and it has even been certified as a medical device.

Free to be active

Whether it is during sports or when you are working on something that might endanger the safety of your fistula, the protector can help to keep us from harm.

It’s not just a physical protection, it has a positive effect on my mindset, feeling a lot more secure and less afraid of getting hurt.