Dialysis does not define me

The story of Maciej

Suffering from chronic kidney disease is something that changes your life. But does it define you? If you listen to the story of Maciej Awiżeń from Poland you will understand: dialysis is not something that keeps you from living a busy and successful life. A positive attitude can make a huge difference.

Maciej Awiżeń is a busy man. Even an important one – he is a Starost, the head of the county board in the Polish district of Kłodzko, a region in the Southwest of Poland, close to the Czech border. He is the leader of his party there, and a member of its board in Lower Silesia. As if that wasn’t enough he also plays guitar in a band, he loves to go out hiking, is a passionate cook – and he even recently went back to university.

Life with dialysis

All of this might not even be very remarkable – if Maciej wasn’t a dialysis patient. But he is, for 15 years now. In the beginning, he was on dialysis for two years until he received a kidney transplant. The new organ served him for eleven years. For the past two years, Maciej has been receiving dialysis treatment at the Fresenius Dialysis Centre in Kłodzko. “I have a great team on my shift in our dialysis station,” he says, “and many of them are active, working people. We exchange knowledge and support each other.” Having been on dialysis before, he knows how it changes his life. That is why he is back on the national waiting list for another transplant. Together with his wife he is also on the list for a chain transplant. He admits that he was not entirely convinced about a living donor transplant, but his wife explained to him that he had to learn to take.

"I can manage"

Maciej admits that dialysis can be a big limitation for someone that is as busy as he is. Needing to spend up to four hours at the dialysis station every other day makes it difficult to plan longer trips or to be available on specific days of the week. But Maciej knows how to manage it: “I tell my colleagues that I can be in a meeting on days when I don’t have dialysis. My colleagues know my situation and it’s never a problem.” Maciej graduated from music school, he plays classical and electric guitar and sings. He also takes part in amateur theatre performances with his friends. As in his professional life, finding time is a matter of being well organized. “When we plan meetings, I tell them it’s no problem, but Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays are impossible” he says with a laugh.

Dialysis-friendly cooking

Maciej loves to be outdoors. “I highly recommend hiking the Sudetes. You can find many routes that are not very demanding and where you won’t meet another human being all day.” When winter comes, he wants to return to the cross-country skiing he used to do, a sport that he finds suitable for dialysis patients – if the individual health status permits that. One thing about Maciej that we really were happy to hear is that he is a big fan of our NephroCare recipes and he loves to try them out. He likes Italian and Chinese cuisine very much, although sometimes the meals need to be adjusted to make them dialysis-friendly.

A positive mindset

It’s important for Maciej to find activities and interests that are not related to dialysis. He thinks that the disease has a way of limiting the mindset. “Dialysis is not the end of the world” he keeps saying. “A serious illness is also an opportunity to properly establish a hierarchy of our values and to reflect on what is really important.” He thinks it is important to adjust your reality to achieve your goals and dreams. The disease can make things difficult, but it shouldn’t make them impossible. Maciej loves the support of his family, their understanding of certain limitations. “Still – for me, the most important thing is to be an equal partner in the family and not a burden. There is no need to revolve around me. We are all equally important at home.”

Good people, good advice

Maciej remembers how little information was available when he started dialysis, and how he wanted to learn more about it. Luckily, the situation is much different today. There is so much knowledge available, about dietary requirements and fluid intake for example. His interest in these topics even brought him back to school, having started on an MBA program in healthcare management. His fellow patients are a great source of information as well, he says, and social media groups and forums. “It is a good idea to get in touch with people at your dialysis centre, not only the medical staff but also other patients who have experience on dialysis. After all they are our family, we spend a lot of time together. These people have a lot of advice and support.”

Maciej Awiżeń is not just a very busy man – he is a wise man as well. And we thank him for sharing his story with us.