Shout-outs of “Congratulations, Betty!” and “30 years!” greet Betty Douglas as she walks into the Chromalloy American Kidney Center at Washington University on December 28, 2016. Pushing the small walker that holds the bright red blanket she uses to keep the chill away during dialysis, she makes her way to the scales, weighs herself, and writes down the number on a slip of paper.
It is a special day. Today, Betty Douglas is celebrating 30 years of dialysis treatments.
Nurse Administrator Brenda Bingel presents Betty with a cluster of helium balloons attached to a lucky bamboo plant. “I don’t know if she needs any luck. She’s apparently doing something right,” says Brenda. “Believe me, this is quite an accomplishment.”
After another shout-out of “30 years!”, Betty says to those within earshot, “Those 30 years went fast.”
Maybe fast, but not always easy. Betty was 34 years old with three young boys at home, the youngest only one year old, when she started dialysis because of high blood pressure. She knew something was wrong when she noticed blood in her urine. “It scared me to death,” she says. “I drove myself to the emergency room.”
Dialysis was hard for Betty at first. She admits to being depressed, “moping around”, and crying a lot. “But, it’s something that you just have to get used to doing,” she says. “As the years go by, it’s just an everyday thing.” Betty had been on the kidney transplant list a couple of times, but for a variety of reasons, it just never happened.
When asked if she has any advice for someone just staring out on dialysis, Betty says, “Yes, I was a little depressed in the beginning, but if you want to live, you have to do what you have to do. I just started to think of it like that.”
Chromalloy is the only dialysis facility Betty has attended since starting dialysis, and she has seen the center change tremendously over those years. From the windowless facility once located in the basement of another building to the bright, spacious facility it is now, Betty admits that it is “a lot nicer”.
“We have windows!” she says with a laugh.