Some medical treatments take days, weeks or months, and the person goes on with life.
Some last a lifetime.
Mary Ann Remmich lost both of her kidneys to polycystic kidney disease, an inherited disorder in which groups of cysts form in the kidneys and cause them to grow larger and lose function over time. She did have a kidney transplant, but it helped for only two months and made her very sick.
It’s easy to see why because the kidneys keep the body clean. They remove waste, cleanse the normal waste that accumulates in body fluids and regulate essential chemicals and hormones. People with kidney disease — most commonly caused by diabetes, high blood pressure or Mary Ann’s condition — often require dialysis to perform what the body cannot.
In simple terms, dialysis replaces what the kidney is supposed to do by removing extra fluid and waste products that build up because the kidneys aren’t working. All patients who are diagnosed with stage 5 or end-stage kidney disease require dialysis to stay alive, which is what happened to Mary Ann.
On June 28, 1988, she started receiving the treatments three times a week, each of which lasts more than three hours.
“Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays,” Mary Ann said. “I’ve been doing that all 30 years.”
She began her dialysis in Fargo, North Dakota, at what was then Dakota Clinic but now goes to the Sanford Tom and Frances Leach Dialysis unit in Bismarck, North Dakota.
“When I went to Fargo, it was 140 miles, one-way trip and then I went to Jamestown (North Dakota) and that was only a 40-mile trip, one way. Then when my husband retired, we moved to Bismarck and I’ve been here now for 12 years,” she said.
It’s not official, but everyone who has worked with Mary Ann believes the 76-year-old is the longest running dialysis patient in North Dakota.
“Always been a patient that follows the rules. She takes her medications the way she is supposed to, follows her fluid restrictions,” said Laura Dahl, a registered nurse at Sanford Health in Bismarck, who has worked with Mary Ann for more than decade.
“She walks in the door smiling and has the most positive attitude,” Dahl said. “It’s like her part time job.”
Mary Ann makes sure to keep busy during her dialysis rounds. Crossword puzzles, coffee and good faith help her get through each round. But don’t ask her how many hours of her life she’s spent in the dialysis chair.
“Never, I don’t even want to know,” Mary Ann said.
She is very thankful for all of the support she has had throughout the years, especially from her husband.
“The good Lord brought me through,” she said.
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