Jonathan Traylor and his wife Melissa, of Kerrville, are navigating the world of medical decisions and treatment for his kidney failure, dialysis and search for a living donor.
They moved to Kerrville four years ago with their two children.
And on July 8, 2019, he was diagnosed with renal failure and the necessity of registering to find a living donor to get him off dialysis.
He describes the start of this journey as being sick with flu-like symptoms.
“I begged him to go to the hospital,” she said.
“I weighed 340 pounds then, and I needed to go to the bathroom but couldn’t. And that day when I tried to get out of bed to try again, I fell down. I couldn’t stand up.”
He said by the next night, both his legs swelled up until his feet were too big for him to put shoes on. And he said he was “having issues with my heart and my breathing.”
After tests done in Kerrville, the diagnosis came back as kidney failure, also called renal failure.
And his condition called for a medical helicopter transfer to San Antonio Methodist Hospital – “me, I have a fear of heights. But once they loaded me on the helicopter, I had no anxiety on that flight, once it started.”
Melissa and their children drove to San Antonio.
When the helicopter arrived and Jonathan was unloaded, he overheard a doctor’s comment.
“I heard a doctor say the words ‘crash cart’ and I had heart arythmia. It shocked my heart,” he said.
He said he woke up three days later in ICU with all kinds of tubes and lines attached, and strapped to the bed because he’d been trying to pull some of them out, they told him.
“And they did continual dialysis on him those three days,” Melissa said.
“I was a living miracle at that point. One nephrologist in San Antonio said I was about 30 minutes from death. My body was full of toxins and swollen with fluid,” he said.
He was at that hospital more than two weeks.
Back in Kerrville, he became a patient getting treatments at DaVita Dialysis Center for kidney dialysis three days per week, for 3 hours 45 minutes at a time.
“Their whole team is amazing,” he said. “One of them told me, ‘We’re going to give you back your ankles’.”
He’s unemployed and on disability now. He said he’s trying to get healthier, enough to get back to fulltime work in computer technology.
Among his many decisions, he make a choice between “peritoneal dialysis” through his stomach, and “arterial venous fistula” for which the doctors made two “buttonholes” in one forearm so blunt needles can be inserted.
After his treatments continued at the clinic for a while, they gave him information about a new treatment.
Jonathan described it as “home dialysis.”
“My wife hooks me up by inserting the IV drug and monitors my blood pressure,” he said.
He and Melissa trained in the clinic through last Thursday; and they were scheduled to get the Nx-Stage home hemo-dialysis machine he will be using now.
This is a fairly new option offered through the treatment clinic.
“His blood was washed through a solution called Dialysate at the clinic,” she said, adding its dosage is figured on his body weight (less now than last summer).
“It’s a lot to set up. Once it’s running, it’s the easy part for him,” she said.
They added, the machine has alarms on it that go off if the needles in his arm move, or any of several other signs.
On the plus side, the home treatment system lets the couple decide the timing of his three weekly treatments.
“Dialysis has kept me alive, but it’s temporary, a ‘bandaid.’ This machine is my kidney. But it will never take the place of my kidney,” he said. “My goal is to find a living donor; and to educate others about kidney disease. This is a result of my Type 2 diabetes and hypertension and family history.”
Jonathan went on an official registry of those seeking a living donor, last December, through San Antonio Methodist Hospital.
“But there’s a six- to eight-year wait, on average,” he said.
He said he has Type-O blood.
Melissa said anyone can get tested to see if they could be a donor. If a person is “cleared” to donate but isn’t Type O, that person can become part of a kidney “swap,” they said, with multiple patients and donors involved.
They said prospective donors can get tested for free.
For more information, check his Facebook page, “hope for jonathan –give the gift of life.” There are other links listed on that page.
He also is a member of the “kidneysolutions.org” group led by Kent Bressler; and attends the Transplant Support Group at Peterson Regional Medical Center.