Home Hemodialysis Saved My Career and Life

By David Rush

David RushIn 2007, my music career was taking off. I had just been signed to Pitbull’s record label, Mr. 305 Inc., and released my first two singles. Unfortunately, it was around the same time I began having serious health issues. I felt tired all the time and began gaining weight. It was that same year I was diagnosed with kidney failure. At 24 years old, I found out I would need to be on dialysis to stay alive unless I received a kidney transplant.

It seemed in-center dialysis was my only option, and I hated it. It was an extremely depressing experience. An older patient who treated me like family didn’t show up one day and I heard she had died. Soon after that, another patient who sat across from me went in the hospital and never came back. I thought this was just how my life was going to go. I began to feel like some of the 70-year-old patients in the chairs next to me. I thought, “This can’t be what is left of my life.” Luckily, it wasn’t.

After a year of restrictive in-center dialysis treatment, I was offered the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel on a 40-city tour with Pitbull. While receiving in-center treatment, traveling was impossible but I just couldn’t imagine missing out on this opportunity. It wasn’t until my manager Manny looked online for home dialysis that I found out about portable home hemodialysis (HHD). It was the first glimpse of hope I had in over a year.

We quickly found a center to train me and I went on the road. I performed 50 shows and brought the dialysis machine with me on the tour bus. Treating more frequently allowed me to focus on my music career and find a transplant donor instead of focusing on my daily battle with kidney failure. I was also able to improve my health and lost more than 100 pounds. Prior to then, I was not considered healthy enough to sustain a new kidney, but with the improvement of my health, I became a candidate for a kidney transplant.

In 2010, my brother was identified as a perfect match and I underwent kidney transplant surgery. Today, I’m married to my high school sweetheart, Noemi, and have a three-year-old son and two-year-old daughter. I’m spending a lot of time on my music, writing for other artists and being an active dad.

Looking back, I can’t believe I wasn’t educated about all of my treatment options. When I first heard my diagnosis, I was so scared and confused I didn’t even understand what was happening to me. I knew I needed dialysis but I was never made aware that I had more options than just in-center. I found HHD because I wasn’t willing to settle.

Unfortunately, many patients don’t realize there are other treatments that could drastically improve their health and lifestyle. Little do they know, another therapy option could be much better suited for their lives. Most patients don’t have a job that requires them to travel to 40 cities, but I like to tell them to find their own 40-city tour and live their lives to the fullest.

The current Medicare policy creates barriers to offering patients home dialysis. About 3 out of every 4 dialysis centers are NOT offering HHD because CMS only reimburses about 20% of the costs to train patients. Even though I was lucky to learn about HHD, this shouldn’t be based on luck – it should be based on the right we have to know about the various treatments available.