PKD and DIALYSIS
Ralph suffers from Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) which tends to run in families. It is an inherited disorder that is passed to children through genes which are the basic elements of heredity. PKD causes cysts to grow in the kidneys. As the fluid-filled cysts grow they slowly replace much of the kidneys, reducing kidney function and leading to kidney failure. PKD is a painful disease that impacts quality of life. The average size of a normal kidney is a human fist. Polycystic kidneys can get much larger, some as large as footballs and weighing up to 30 pounds each. There is no known cure for PKD.
Once a person has kidney failure, dialysis or a transplant are the only options to treat the damage the disease has caused. Ralph has kidney failure and has been on dialysis for three years.
Ralph started Hemodialysis on August 1, 2013. This process uses a special filter which is connected to a machine to clean your blood. Ralph had surgery to create an abnormal vein (known as a fistula) in his arm. A needle connected to tubing is then inserted into the fistula to facilitate an adequate blood flow to the dialysis machine. The filtered blood is returned to the body through a second needle inserted in the fistula. Dialysis is required 3 times a week and takes approximately 4 hours. This treatment is exhausting.
In January 2016, Ralph switched to Peritoneal dialysis. This required surgery to implant a tube into the peritoneal (stomach lining). About 2 liters of a special solution (called dialysate) flows through the tube into the abdomen. After the solution dwells in the peritoneal for several hours it is drained out and replaced with fresh solution. This is required every day and takes about 14 hours to complete. Ralph connects himself to a machine which runs the process for 10 hours each night. This seems to be easier on the body as you get dialysis every day.
Both dialysis methods severely limit the ability to lead a normal life.