Two hearts linked through home dialysis

Sinem and Yalçın at home

Due to home haemodialysis, they enjoy working and dreaming together, looking towards the future with hope. Sinem and Yalçın Önel recount not only how they met and fell in love at a dialysis centre, but also how they now share their home dialysis machine.

Sinem Önel was born in Bursa, Turkey, in 1992 and has lived in İnegöl since her early years. She fondly remembers her childhood, growing up with two sisters. When her mother lost her sight during pregnancy, Sinem had to abandon her education after secondary school, stepping in as a “replacement mother.”

Sinem started dialysis at the age of 19 due to nephrotic syndrome. Although experiencing difficulties at first, she accepted treatment more easily when her physical symptoms got significantly better. She underwent haemodialysis treatment for one and a half years in her hometown at the Özel FMC İnegöl Diyaliz Merkezi. It was where she learned about home haemodialysis – and where Sinem met her future husband.

Yalçın Önel was born in İnegöl in 1988. He grew up with one sister in a warm-hearted family. When his disease first manifested at the age of ten, he was treated intermittently on account of bladder problems throughout his school years. After a severe reaction to antibiotics during Yalçın’s second year at university, he started dialysis, which was challenging both physically and mentally.

Although his mother donated him a kidney in 2012, Yalçın had to go back on dialysis when it stopped functioning due to infection after just two years. He has been working for a furniture company’s human resources department while being on home haemodialysis for three years now.

Sinem, please tell us how you two met.

Sinem: I saw Yalçın for the first time when he had to go back to the clinic after his kidney transplant failed. Something inside me stirred when I saw him, but we didn’t have the chance to talk. I tried to find out who he was from my nurse friend. When our paths crossed again, at last, we had a short conversation and then started messaging on social media for a while.

Since Yalçın began home haemodialysis before I did, I visited him to find out how he was doing. In December 2015 we went to see the movie Endless Love and took a photo. When he asked me to share the photo on social media, it was like he was declaring we’re in a relationship. A few weeks later, on New Year’s Eve, he proposed to me by saying, “Would you share the key of the same house with me?” I was delighted, but then he broke up with me shortly after the proposal.

Two months later, he sent a message and wanted to explain why. He expressed his wish to get back together, but I made life hard for him for a little while before we started dating again [smiles]. In June 2017, when we applied for kidney transplants, he proposed to me in the middle of the hospital! We have been happily married since April 2018.

How did you decide on taking home dialysis?

Sinem: Above all, I appreciated the fact that it could be done in a home environment. My husband supported me a lot on this path to start home haemodialysis and even made it a condition for our marriage. I was so glad when I could finally start in October 2015, as I had to undergo treatment of thyroid cancer first.

I think everyone can do home dialysis, it requires only a little courage. Thanks to our physicians and kind nurses, who are good and warm people, everything got easier with their help. Every time I see them, I say, “Luckily, our paths crossed.”

Receiving home haemodialysis helps to overcome some limitations of in-centre treatment. First, cleaning the blood for a more extended period ensures that side effects which emerge after dialysis are kept to a minimum. Second, you can plan your day better, spend more time with your loved ones and on hobbies. Home haemodialysis has given me my working life back. Thanks to my sympathetic managers at work, I can rest during the day if I do not feel well.

Yalcin: When my kidney transplant failed after two years, naturally, I had to start dialysis again, but I did not want to move away from both my working life and social circle and wanted to live a normal life as soon as possible. I looked into home haemodialysis because that seemed the only solution for me. I read patient interviews and did research from various sources. The staff at the Özel FMC İnegöl Diyaliz Merkezi supported my decision. I successfully completed my education and then started home haemodialysis right away. Home haemodialysis gives you really important freedom, compared to normal dialysis. Thanks to that, I could return to my working life.

How would you sum up your experience?

Yalçın: I have been sharing the same dialysis machine with Sinem for the last months, just as we share a life… In the beginning, our relationship had ups and downs, due to negative experiences in my past. Yet, I always tried to make the best decisions for both of us. I want her to be happy. The fact that she still blushes when she sees me makes me very happy. But her most impressive traits to me are her determination and her attitude towards life. Fortunately, we now have a very happy marriage. We struggle together, and we support each other.

Sinem: We got through hard times together. Looking back, I see that you don’t have to give up on anything in life. Hope may sometimes be waning, but then persistence steps in. Because life is always full of miracles.

Thank you so much,
Sinem and Yalçın, for trusting us with your story.

Stay as happy as you are!