Monica Smith settles in to begin her thrice weekly dialysis at Auburn Hospital assisted by team leader Lucy Esay. Photo by RADIM CECHVALA
THREE times a week, Berala resident Monica Smith heads to Auburn Hospital to sit for about five hours while a dialysis machine does the work her kidneys can't.
After 10 years, it's a routine that keeps her alive but she is hoping to be the recipient of a kidney transplant which would dramatically change her life.
"You get used to it," she said.
"I play games on the phone or nod off for a few hours. I sleep pretty good here.
"When I first started I had to go to Blacktown. When they opened here I was one of the first ones. That was about eight years ago.
"It can affect people of all ages, nobody is really immune to it.
"I am of Aboriginal descent. It affects more of us. If you are Aboriginal, you definitely need to take care."
Renal physician clinical professor Grahame Elder says she is one of more than 720 dialysis patients in the local area, although some undergo the treatment cycle to clean their blood at home.
He warned that most people may not notice the symptoms of kidney failure but early signs can be picked up through blood or urine tests, or by a blood pressure check.
Most of the major factors that contribute to kidney disease are lifestyle related including smoking, obesity and poor diet which can all be modified.
"That's the good news for the most part. Although it can be difficult," he said.
"Exercise three times a week. I think around Auburn we should have more women's gyms.
"Women who are a little bit overweight are not going to be keen to get down and exercise in front of men.
"And, if vegetables and fruit are a part of your diet, then you can reduce your risk. It's both horribly simple and horribly hard."