Another View: Dialysis Life Or Death

August 23, 2018

The Grunion

Albert McKnight

Living with a chronic illness affects your life in countless ways. Those who find themselves in this situation are sometimes forced to make incredibly stressful decisions, choosing between treatment and maintaining a job, or between paying for a roof over their head and the medical treatment they need to survive.

Charitable assistance programs that help patients pay for insurance premiums and basic necessities are as much a lifesaver as the life-sustaining treatment patients receive. When legislation like Senate Bill 1156 threatens to take away the option of charitable assistance, it also threatens the lives of thousands of patients.

I know this all too well, as I am both a dialysis patient living with Chronic Kidney Disease and the son of a former patient.

I have suffered from Chronic Kidney Disease for the past two years. High blood pressure led to my kidney problems and my ultimate diagnosis with kidney failure. Prior to learning about my diagnosis, I witnessed my mother battle the same disease for 10 years before she passed away. I never thought I would find myself in the same terrifying situation as my mother.

I will never be able to get used to the space dialysis takes up in my everyday life. I work the graveyard shift during the week from 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. This is the only way I can continue my treatment and maintain a full-time job. Following my late-night shift, I receive dialysis at my local clinic three days a week for 4.5 hours each day.

The treatment is extremely rigorous and leaves me exhausted, but I am grateful to at least have enough energy most days to take care of my work responsibilities and maintain employment. Through my wife’s job I have insurance, which, combined with Medicare and charitable assistance, allows me to continue to pay for my dialysis treatment.

Before I was able to receive charitable assistance, my wife and I worried daily about how we would be able to pay for my medical bills and our everyday expenses. I felt backed into a corner like there was a point coming where I wasn’t going to be able to afford to receive treatment, which was a terrifying thought. Charitable assistance relieved so much of this stress, and for that I am incredibly thankful. But, there are a lot of other people in in our state who are in the same situation, or worse.

In Southern California, it’s hard enough to maintain paying for everyday expenses like rent, utilities and food. Without the charitable assistance programs, I and so many others wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for our insurance premiums. Personally, my choices would be to pay for my insurance premiums and be homeless, or to pay rent and not have the medical care I need to survive. Removing the option of paying for treatment with charitable assistance would be life-threatening and financially devastating for thousands of patients in California.

Living with a chronic illness brings enough change and uncertainty to your life. Having to worry about how you are also going to pay for your treatment is an added stress that we do not need. Please do not add to our already overwhelming burdens. I’m calling on our legislators to stand up for the thousands of dialysis patients in California and the many others living with chronic illnesses. I urge you to vote NO on Senate Bill 1156.

Albert McKnight is a Long Beach resident.

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