Each day, 78-year-old Mary Pauline Moolecherry wakes up with a sense of gratitude. She has been suffering from chronic kidney disease (CKD) for decades, but feels very fortunate.
After being hospitalized in 2021 for an unrelated allergy, Mary’s kidney function took a downward turn from 16 per cent to only nine per cent.
Despite her hardships, she is thankful. Here, Ms. Moolecherry shares her kidney story, how she navigated through the pandemic, and how she’s living her best life through education and support from Scarborough Health Network’s (SHN) Multi-Care Kidney Clinic (formerly the CKD Program).
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell me about your story – how did you end up at SHN?
It’s been a long journey.
For years, I neglected myself. I was overweight and hadn’t visited the doctor since the birth of my last baby. After my father, who had been a diabetic, passed away, I made the decision to get checked after suffering several symptoms, including extreme fatigue and weakness.
I went to Centenary Hospital and was diagnosed with diabetes; my sugars were high; and I had started CKD.
The doctor said to me, “You’re not leaving here until you have insulin.”
I was only 28.
You must have been scared. What were your next steps?
I was scared. I managed to maintain my health for a while. By the time I was 42-years-old, my kidneys were operating at less than 50 per cent. But I exercised; I joined a weight loss management program; and I was watching what I was eating with the support of dietitians and nurses at the General Hospital’s Multi-Care Kidney Clinic.
My kidneys plateaued at about 33 per cent and it stayed like that for at least 10 years.
Today, my kidneys are operating at nine per cent. Since my body has been functioning at acceptable levels, thankfully, I haven’t had to go on dialysis – a treatment that removes waste products and excess fluid from the blood when the kidneys stop working properly.
What is a typical clinic visit like, and how did it change through the pandemic?
It’s important for me, specifically, to attend the Multi-Care Kidney Clinic at SHN because as a patient living with diabetes and kidney disease means I am at a higher risk of complications. The clinic has a team of doctors and nurse educators, plus is linked to other services like social work and pharmacy, who all support me with my treatment options and education. The nurses also go over all my blood work and we review my meal plans. Through the clinic’s help, I have been able to live with an improved quality of life, and successfully self-manage my condition.
During the pandemic, because my kidney function had dropped, we maintained in-person visits at the hospital. I was also in transition; my previous nephrologist retired, so I preferred not to do over-the-phone medical check-ups. For me, I think the in-person visits are better; they can see how I am overall including both my physical and mental state. It can be depressing sometimes – living and managing symptoms of diabetes and CKD is draining; it can take a huge mental toll on you.
Was there anything specific your care team advised you about during the pandemic?
Up until the pandemic, I had avoided getting immunizations. I had gotten the flu shot one year, and shortly after, I was sick – so I have been hesitant ever since. But I did speak with my nephrologist’s office, and they had no concerns about me getting the COVID-19 vaccination.
In fact, because of my low kidney function, I was strongly advised to get it – so I did! I also decided to leave my hesitations at the wayside, and I got the flu shot for the first time in a long time, too – the good news is I didn’t get sick after it!
What is the most important quality of care for you as a patient?
Honesty. It’s so important to know everything – even if it might be scary.
To be truthful, I am glad I get to receive care from Scarborough Health Network. They really take an interest in you as a person. Whenever I have a question or concern, my nurse acts right away. I have always felt taken care of and appreciated, and I wouldn’t want any other care team.
Through the help of SHN’s Multi-Care Kidney Clinic, I am happy to say I’ve been able to avoid dialysis, and self-manage my condition through diet, exercise and education. I’m in my late 70s now, and I can honestly say I am really one of the fortune ones.