“Losing consciousness with no one around to help was one of the scariest moments in my life.”

The patient was just sitting in the dialysis chair, unconscious. By the time the caregivers got to him and tried to revive him, it was too late — even CPR couldn’t bring him back. The administrators draped a cloth over his body. I then sat through the rest of my session thinking, one day that could be me.

Earlier this year while waiting in the dialysis clinic lobby for my ride, I feared that day had come. My treatment had just ended at 6:30 pm, and by then there were no workers there because the staff who are stationed in the lobby go home at 4:00 pm. I felt weak and disoriented because my blood pressure had dropped badly during my treatment. But when I looked around that lobby, no one was there to help. I didn’t know what to do. The last thing I remember was desperately wanting to get home and be with my four children and my husband. And then I blacked out.

I’ve struggled with health complications since I was ten years old. But these past few years have been some of the toughest. Two years ago I had my leg amputated due to a serious infection, and a year later I started dialysis treatment after my kidney began to give out.

My family has kept me strong through all my health scares, but after my dad’s passing five years ago and my brother’s sudden death in a car crash last August, it’s been a constant battle to keep my spirits up. Now with dialysis I spend so much time away from my family during treatment. When I’m home I often feel so sick or weak that it’s hard to enjoy time with my children and husband.

Someone usually goes to dialysis with me to make sure I’m safe, but the day I lost consciousness in the lobby my husband wasn’t able to join me. I don’t know how long I was unconscious – all I remember is that I woke up with a nurse standing over me saying, “You’re okay. Your ride is here.” The nurse only discovered me passed out in my wheelchair because she came out to the lobby to see if any patients were waiting for their appointments. By chance, I was buckled into my wheelchair – if I hadn’t been, I would’ve fallen to the ground.

Sometimes I feel like giving up. But then I look at my babies and ask myself, “Who’s going to take care of them when I’m not here?” They motivate me to go back to the clinic each day because I know they need me. I always tell my kids that I love them because I didn’t get a chance to say it to my brother before he died.

I just want to know that there will be enough caregivers in case anything goes wrong – I don’t want my kids to grow up without their mom.

Irene Botello passed away in April 2018. She was an important leader in the campaign for dialysis patients’ rights.

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