The Elephant in the Room

In the two years that I’ve been on peritoneal dialysis, I’ve had 9 different machines. The Fresinius Liberty Cycler seems to be a delicate piece of equipment. But it’s doing something pretty complicated.

Just to remind you how this thing works, very simply: 8 liters of fluid flows in and out of my body all night, 2 liters at a time. The treatment starts with a drain, because on most days, I accumulate fluid in my abdomen. After the drain is the fill, followed by the “dwell”, when the fluid stays in my abdomen for a little over an hour. The fluid gathers impurities that my kidneys cannot process and drains them out. This process happens four times throughout the night over 8 hours. Drain, fill, dwell…ending in the morning with a final drain.

When something goes wrong, it’s usually in the middle of the night. I have called technical support at Fresenius many times in the wee hours of the morning, and I gotta say, the technicians are great. They get that you’d rather be sleeping than calling them with a problem. Usually what happens is the technicians walk me through a number of screens on the cycler, depending on what the error message is. If the problem can’t be fixed, they ship out a new one.

My last cycler was starting to make really stupid noises, kind of like a voice crying, or sometimes like an elephant’s trumpet. I called tech support during the day, without even having the serial number or the software version, which they usually ask for. I explained the sound that it was making, and the tech said, “Oh, no, it’s not supposed to sound like that, we’ll ship out a new one.” Easy peasy. Should’ve called weeks ago.

Just so you can hear how weird the thing sounds, I recorded the cycler with my phone after waking up at around 3AM. Give this a listen:

Weird, right? It actually made me laugh. At 3AM.

I got the new cycler and packed up the old one for pick up. I’m very happy to say that the new machine is super quiet! Yes, it is a little disconcerting and a pain in the neck to have to switch out machines nine times in two years. But please know I am so grateful for this treatment. The technology is amazing and whoever figured out that this would work is some kind of genius. My older, middle brother, who also has PKD, was on peritoneal dialysys for about a year 22 years ago, and he said his machine was the size of a refrigerator! Mine is about the size of two VCRs. (Remember those? Video Cassette Recorder?) I can actually travel with it, and I have several times. My dialysis clinic has a special suitcase for the cycler.

Of course all this will end when I get a transplant. Which I hope happens before I have to order another cycler. You can find out more about the donation process by visiting my About page.

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