Dialysis: A life tied to the machines

Mar. 25, 2013 @ 09:32 PM

Jeremy Snyder first faced death when he was in eighth grade. He got sick with what he thought was a cold. Though he took medicine, his symptoms got worse. His doctors ran tests. They diagnosed Snyder with a rare blood disease that was slowly causing his kidneys to fail.  His family was in disbelief, and Snyder felt his life was over.

 Snyder was put on dialysis, unsure what to expect. The side-effects of treatment multiplied the agony of his worsening symptoms.  Confusion, fatigue and nausea forced him to leave school. Education was no longer his priority. It was survival.

“I was determined to get an education one day, and the next, I was fighting for my life,” Snyder said. 

He still attended school when possible.  He also enjoyed sports.  Basketball was his favorite.  “I was pretty good, but couldn’t pursue it very far due to the illness.” He said.

Before turning 15, Snyder had suffered more than most people twice his age had. But the battle was just beginning. Snyder’s condition deteriorated. He had seizures and fell into a coma for eight days.  The recovery took nearly three years.

When he was strong enough, his doctors proposed a kidney transplant. They ran extensive tests to determine the appropriate donor.  Snyder’s mother, Marguerite, donated her kidney.  “She never hesitated.” he said.

The operation was a success. When he recovered, Snyder was able to live a more normal life. He got a job at the local grocery store. He even met a girl at his apartment building. They became engaged. They traveled to New York to visit her family and plan the wedding.

“I felt like life was ready to take off,” he said.

 His happiness was short lived. The transplanted kidney failed suddenly. His poor health returned. His fiancé left.

  “She just couldn’t handle it, and after that, I hit the bottom of the barrel again,” Snyder said.

Other men his age were in college, starting a family or working toward a career while Snyder clung to life.

Then things got worse. He was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2011. Two surgeries later, his health is stable but he relies on dialysis to compensate for his failed kidneys.

Now 36 and living in Monroe, Snyder still hopes for a bright future.  His family has been supportive, but Snyder is determined to not be a burden. His mobility is good, and he remains self sufficient.  He is working at the grocery store and pursuing his GED. He even gives himself dialysis.  But the lifelong battle has taken its toll.  Fatigue plagues him often. 

Snyder is on two kidney transplant waiting lists, but even a successful transplant rarely lasts forever.  The time he will wait for another transplant is undetermined, and it is the only cure available at this time.  Snyder says transplants are a band aid.  The third failed kidney remains inside him. 

 He still loves basketball.  He tunes in to cheer on his beloved North Carolina Tarheels whenever he can.  He even went to a game in person.  “The collegiate sports atmosphere is unbeatable.” He says.  He also attended a Carolina Panthers game. 

 Snyder is planning his next move. “I want to finish my GED, and possibly pursue a career in patient advocacy to help families like mine, but I’ve had a problem moving on,” he says.  “Eventually I would like to have a home and a family of my own- you know, live the American Dream.” 

He hopes his story can inspire others to hope for a healthy future.

“I know there are a lot of patients struggling out there, and I just want them to understand this disease, and help them in any way I can.”

According to The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1 in 10 Americans will face some level of kidney disease in their lifetimes.

 Jeremy Snyder believes in never giving up.  He makes that very clear when explaining his new found philosophy: “We must learn to leave the past in the past.  The choices we make now will impact the rest of our lives.”