Those on hemodialysis, I have a simple question for you. Who is the one person who is always present when you are getting dialysis? Whether you are at your regular centre or traveling and getting dialysis in a new centre. Whether the expert cannulator at your centre has come or not. Whatever be the circumstances. Who is the one person who is always present when you get dialysis?
It is you!
For most hemodialysis patients, the most fearful aspect of dialysis is cannulation. The insertion of two thick needles in the arm can never be fun. Most people are paranoid about these needles. Some people settle with one technician who has figured the fistula out and the associated veins and knows how to cannulate it. Patients always want only that person to do the cannulation. When that person is away on leave or assigned to another shift, then patients panic.
I have been through this myself. When I was getting dialysis in a hospital, there was one technician, Jairam, who cannulated me with no problem. I used to always want only him to cannulate. If he was on leave, I would reschedule my dialysis session, so I got dialysis when he was available.
I read about self-cannulation online. I had become a member of the Home Dialysis Central group and they had an online forum where people could post questions. Those who had experienced those problems in the past would help with suggestions on how they solved the problem. There, I learnt that you could cannulate yourself and not rely on technicians any more. Wherever you went, you would not have to worry about the ability of the technicians.
I started learning the process from Jairam himself. Jairam explained it to me and stood by as I cannulated for the first time. At the end, I was proud of myself. It gave me confidence that I never had in the past. In the next few sessions, I continued cannulating myself and soon was doing it with no fear.
I do not remember a single session where someone else has cannulated me after that.
Self-cannulation liberates you from the fear of the availability of good technicians. You are taking care of the most fearsome part of the session. What else can go wrong?
Dialysis centre staff also see those who self-cannulate with respect. They allow them to decide other dialysis parameters as well.
Very few things you do related to your dialysis will give you the amount of satisfaction and confidence that self-cannulation does. So, talk to your nephrologist and dialysis centre staff and see if you can give it a shot. It will be worth it.
Here are two videos of me cannulating myself. One is at my home and one is on a holiday to Goa.