This month the National Kidney Foundation wants you to get to know two humble, hardworking organs: your kidneys. One Sioux Falls man doesn't take his kidney's for granted, he lost both of them to cancer a year and a half ago. Now he waits for a kidney transplant while living on dialysis.
For 44 year old Paul Van Vooren of Sioux Falls, a DaVita Home Dialysis Machine is his lifeline. His wife Karen is his adhoc home nurse. Paul has a rare genetic disorder called von Hippel-Lindau disease. It also plagues his grandma, mom and 2 sisters. It causes cysts to develop all over the body. In 1997 the cysts on his kidneys developed into cancer tumors, which is usually the case with this disease. For 10 years he was in and out of the hospital enduring multiple surgeries to remove the cancerous parts of his kidneys. In 2007, he lost what was left of both kidneys. They were removed.
Paul says, "Paul that's when you figure out you are really in trouble, but you do the best you can with what you have. I do what my nurses and doctors tell me to do. I want to be proactive and stay in the best medical condition possible, so I'm healthy when my kidney (transplant) finally arrives. It's a battle though. All those at DaVita Sioux Falls At Home Dialysis (located on the Avera McKennan campus in Sioux Falls) have been so good at regulating my medications. I haven't gotten diabetes, I don't have high blood pressure or bone weakening and that's a testament to them. I am fortunate. I really am. A lot of people are worse off than I am."
Paul spends 3 hours a day, 6 days a week doing dialysis. He does it at home in a room into his house he's transformed into the dialysis room. The machine replaces the function of the kidneys. It removes waste products from the body and balances the body's fluids.
Paul, "We are fooling the body into thinking everything is alright. Dialysis, it's like the demon word. People say to me, 'Oh my God, how do you do it?' It's not how do you do it, it's because you have to do it. That's all there is to it."
For Paul the DaVita Home Dialysis Machine has afforded him the flexibility he needs to do the things he wants to do. He sets his time frame for when he wants to do the dialysis. It's also portable. In fact, he took it to Alaska to go bear hunting with his son last year. His son, like his wife, is also trained on the machine so he can hook him up and monitor him.
Paul says, "This machine has done wonders."
But Paul needs a kidney and no one in his family is a match because of the genetic disease, plus his antibodies are so high from all the surgeries it's tough to match him with non-related donors. He says that's just another bump in the road. He's prepared to wait. He says God gives him everyday for a purpose."
Paul chokes up when he tells us, "I have a lot of things I want to do. I have a lot of dreams. I want to see my family get married and have kids. I want to be around for all of that."
It's another great day to be alive. For a year and a half Paul has lived by this mantra. And live is exactly what he plans on doing for a very long time.