Veterans Bond Through Challenging Diagnosis of Kidney Failure

(BPT) - The fall of 2018 was life-changing for U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Phillip Hayes. Not only did the season mark his retirement from a 33-year-long service in the Air Force, it marked the beginning of the fight for his life. Phillip’s health had been declining for some time, but he did not anticipate the news from his physician that his kidneys had failed, leading to the diagnosis of end stage kidney disease (ESKD).

Immediately after Phillip’s diagnosis, he was rushed to the Mike O’Callaghan Military Hospital located on the Nellis Air Force base in Clark County, NV, for dialysis treatments and received more tough news. Doctors informed him that his fistula, the safest access point for most people receiving dialysis, had become inoperable. To continue his treatments, Phillip would need a catheter surgically inserted into his right jugular vein, which is less safe due to its location and the associated risk of blood stream infections. The surgery and catheter would require Phillip and his care team’s close attention.

Phillip hoped his condition would improve, but after a month of dialysis in the hospital, his health worsened. With constant sickness and significant weight loss, Phillip became extremely weak. His treatments were not easy and began to chip away at his positive mindset. The week of Veterans Day, Phillip was transferred to the DaVita Summerlin Dialysis Center to start in-center hemodialysis.

The DaVita care team immediately recognized the agonizing pain and frustration in Phillip’s eyes. Stephanie Carter, former U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. in the personnel career field and DaVita administrative assistant, recognized the familiar agony in Phillip’s eyes as the same struggle faced by her mom. For seven years, Stephanie supported her mom as she fought a battle against kidney disease. When Stephanie learned that Phillip was a fellow Veteran, her empathy and compassion grew.

On Veterans Day, Stephanie was honored to have the privilege of recognizing Phillip, amongst other Veteran patients, for his strength and commitment with a commemorative pin. She thanked him, on behalf of her team and all of DaVita, for providing safety and protection to our nation.

What Stephanie and Phillip both understood during this exchange was the underlying commitment in the Army Warrior Ethos, “leave no man behind.” The moment shared between them reassured Phillip that he would not have to fight this battle alone.

The bond between Stephanie and Phillip continued to form, as they discovered multiple shared experiences. Stephanie, the daughter and wife of Air Force veterans, served for 21 years. Not only did she understand Phillip’s career but also she deeply understood the challenges ESKD presented to his health — both as a 6-year-long DaVita teammate and a care partner to her late mother.

The center’s environment was fundamental to Phillip’s life-sustaining treatments and served as a positive catalyst in his relationship with other patients, teammates and community members. This new home and Summerlin family ignited a renewed feeling of hope that pushed Phillip forward.

“I am very happy to be a part of the DaVita Summerlin family. I would not want to be at any other facility than this facility,” said Phillip.

Today, Phillip continues to dialyze three times a week for nearly four hours per treatment at the DaVita Summerlin Dialysis Center, and takes roughly 14 pills a day. Phillip’s routine has become his new normal and his care team helps him stay motivated and engaged as he manages his kidney disease. His new goal is becoming an eligible and active candidate for a kidney transplant, with Stephanie and the rest of the DaVita team cheering him on.

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