Living with limits

About 10 years ago, when Strudwick stopped working, he began coming to the hospital for dialysis treatments to give Gloria a much-needed breather. Once the children were in school fulltime, she’d taken a job in the laundry department of a nearby nursing home. “She got the job to help pay for our daughter’s braces,” Strudwick says. “And 25 years later, she’s still there.”

 


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Although dialyzing at the hospital is less convenient than doing it at home, coming regularly to Holy Name has made Strudwick feel closer to his health care providers. The doctors, nurses and technicians, he says, have become “almost like family.”

 

His fellow dialysis patients, however, are a different story. Although Strudwick used to attend Christmas parties with the other dialysis patients when his daughters were small, he doesn’t go out of his way to socialize with them. “You’ll come in and say, ‘What happened to so and so?’ And someone will tell you, ‘Oh, he had a heart attack and passed away.’ Luckily. I’ve been able to live through it.”

 

The price of survival has been learning to live within strict limits. Al-though he’s allowed to drink a quart of fluid a day, Strudwick has trained himself to drink no more than a pint. “Last weekend, my wife and I took our two granddaughters to Lake George,” he says. “We left Friday and came back Sunday afternoon, and I don’t think I gained even 2 kilos. Some patients come back from a weekend having gained between 10 and 15 kilos; they just can’t stop drinking.”

 

He also knows what he can and cannot eat. “I haven’t had a banana in over 35 years,” he says. “My wife has them in the house, but I know I’m not supposed to eat them so I don’t touch them.”

 

When Strudwick wants to travel, he and his doctors must plan his trips carefully, making sure not only that there’s a dialysis center near his destination, but that it accepts patients with hepatitis. “I envy people who can just pack up and take off. I cannot,” Strudwick says.

 

He has not let these limitations stop him, though. Two years ago, one of the hospital social workers helped Strudwick get an electric scooter, which he uses indoors and out. Back and leg problems had made it difficult for Strudwick to get around without a walker, but as soon as he got the scooter, he and Gloria added a deck and a ramp to their house to help Ed navigate. “I can go around the neighborhood to visit and shop,” he says. “And when we travel, we just put the scooter in my wife’s van and go.”

 

It is Strudwick’s tenacity of spirit, Dr. Rigolosi says, that has helped him overcome so many of the problems and challenges that dialysis patients face. “The fact that we can keep Ed alive and he can go about his daily activities and lead a normal family life with his wife, children and grandchildren—that’s an accomplishment in itself,” he says.

 

Dr. Rigolosi notes, too, that Strudwick’s example serves as an inspiration for others. “Ed’s a role model. I frequently have new patients ask me, ‘How long can I live on dialysis?’ And I say, ‘We have a patient here who’s been on it for 36 years and he’s doing okay. It takes a lot of endurance and will to survive,” he concludes, “and Ed’s got them both.”