Compliance 101

Welcome to the last blog of National Kidney Month 2018. We all know I rarely write about dialysis or transplant, but a friend who is awaiting a transplant brought this book to my attention. This particular section of the book sparked my interest since non-compliance can be an issue in any stage of kidney disease. One part of my mission is to create awareness among Chronic Kidney Disease patients, their friends, families, and loved ones of how important compliance with their medical team is. Dr. Michael B. Fisher is a nephrologist who thinks the same way.

Today’s blog is mostly an excerpt from the upcoming book Surviving Kidney Disease. According to his book’s web page:

“Dr. Fisher received his medical degree from SUNY in 1968 and did his nephrology fellowship at UCLA in 1972. He has been the Medical Director of Acute Dialysis at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital from 1984 to present. He has done 131 teaching lectures at this hospital including topics such as management of malignant hypertension, renal management of toxic shock syndrome, and NSAID drug-induced renal failure. Dr. Fisher was voted by the medical residents the outstanding teacher of the year on 1988. He is active in promoting well-being among renal patients and educating them on care options.”

Dr. Fisher, the floor (er, keyboard) is yours:

“Each patient is unique. A teenager will have different issues than a professor in his fifties, or an elderly diabetic lady whose understanding of English is limited. Therefore, the only effective way to deal with non-compliance is to understand the issues that will interfere with the learning curve for a patient and then customize the lesson plan for the specific needs. The goal is to prevent major non-compliance by initiating a program of education where the patient and family learn why it is critical to make the sacrifice and are motivated to follow doctor’s orders.

The patient will gradually feel better over time after just having started dialysis and that is when the teaching really begins. If the patient is a transplant candidate, discussion of how to get a kidney is uplifting and sets the stage for the need to follow the prescription, no matter how difficult.

The truth is this is a difficult challenge because of the complex nature of kidney disease and the human mind.  I have found that by immediately presenting the possibility for a kidney transplant while also explaining why the need for a strict diet and appropriate fluid restriction, people begin to see a way out of their predicament, spirits soar, and their inner source of strength takes over.  Hope inspires people to find the how to overcome the most daunting challenges.

Here is a synopsis of a recent patient care meeting with a 22 year -old, father of 2 who has been on hemodialysis for 5 years. He is on the transplant list and could be called at any time. If he were called tomorrow, he would be rejected because his parathyroid hormone level (PTH) is ten times above the target number.

He appeared at a patient care meeting, attended by our full staff. When we reminded him that his PTH level was 2000 and that we had been aiming for 200 he was unfazed. Then I explained to him again that even though he felt well, at any time he might suffer from severe bone pain from a disease which is silent even though it is damaging the bones and every organ system. I discovered that he works five days a week despite having dialysis treatments three times in a week. His mother-in-law prepares his lunch every day which consists of a half of a chicken which provides high quality protein and with it an enormous amount of phosphorus. He also failed to take a drug called Sensipar which lowers PTH.

He has felt well, looks muscular, and rather healthy, so in his mind why fix it if it doesn’t seem broken?  I must have finally reached him when I told him what likely happening to his bones and other organs. The most powerful argument that I presented was that he was so close to being called for a kidney transplant, his ticket to a normal life, one where he could eat and drink that things he loved the most.

The bell rang in his mind. He asked questions, took notes, made an appointment to see me to further discuss kidney transplant, his diet and medicines. The social worker connected with him as did the dietician who was going to talk to the mother-in-law about reducing phosphorus in the diet and placing his pills in an organizer. He left with more knowledge and hope that if he talk (sic) ownership of his diet, he would soon receive that kidney transplant that would change his life forever.”

When I was a high school English teacher in New York City a million years ago – or so it seems – my feeling was that you have to meet the student at whatever level they are and start their education from there. I carried that feeling with me into my CKD Awareness Advocacy. It seems Dr. Fisher does, too. As CKD patients, we are each unique.

That’s one of the many and varied reasons I cover so many different topics and often revisit a topic several years later. Just as with my high school students, CKD patients may not be ready to hear medical advances or suggestions to make living with CKD easier the first, second, third, or even 99th time they hear – or read – it. They may gloss over it when it’s presented one way, but glom onto it when presented another.

Just in case you’re wondering how Dr. Fisher knows what a patient feels like, this is from his website at http://www.michaelfishermd.com/:

“I suddenly became a patient myself and came face-to-face with the idea that I was no longer a part of the ‘temporarily healthy.’ Walking in the slippers of my patients allowed me to more fully understand the challenges they faced and the courage that they found to overcome them….”

Although not a renal patient, he could see for himself just how brave you need to be to listen, to comply, to ask questions, to make suggestions as a patient who is probably scared out of your mind with your diagnose to begin with.

Here’s to all of us: the nephrologists, renal nutritionists, phlebotomists, schedulers, and the patients themselves. May this be your month for learning all you can about Chronic Kidney Disease.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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