I was always quite a sick child, and by the time I was 14 both my kidneys had failed. I was feeling really sick – I was vomiting all the time, and I was so tired. Fifty years ago there were only four machines here in South Australia, and not everyone got the chance to be put on dialysis. My case had to go in front of a tribunal of doctors, and they decided whether I would be suitable or not to get a chance of life.
(Published: April 2020)
I remember just a couple of weeks ago they celebrated the first man on the moon. I remember my first dialysis. It didn’t look like a machine at all, it was just three boards, it was very primitive at that time. But they connected me on, and I had my first dialysis 14 hours at a time. The next day I just spent most of the day in bed because I was wiped out
So, there wasn’t much – it was just living from one dialysis to the next. It was very rough, but it worked. A year and a half after I started dialysis, everyone was excited because a new machine became available. It had blood clamps, it had temperature control, it had all the pressures, everything that is needed to go onto home dialysis.
From 14 hours twice a week, it went to 10 hours 3 times a week, and we dialyzed at home in the evening. Because I was feeling a lot better, my mother and I decided we’d start a party plan business. So, we’d have a party, we’d sell our wares and come home, and then we’d have our dialysis.
"Who would marry someone on dialysis?"
Well, I was on home dialysis for 18 years. The only thing that changed was the dialyzers. They were like hollow fiber dialyzers. That was much, much better, much safer, because it was all already made – before, we’d had to build our own dialyzers.
As the technology improved, the hours got less as well – I changed jobs, I became a radio presenter. I had my own program, I had from euro jazz to blues. I produced and presented that.
God has continued to bless me. While I was at one of these revival fellowship meetings, I noticed a very handsome man sitting in the row across the aisle. I thought hmmm ... and as it happened, we did fall in love, and the Lord gave me a wonderful husband. His name was Roger. That was a point in my life that I’d never ever think or thought that I’d ever get married. Because who would marry someone on dialysis?
It was wonderful. We had a very wonderful life together, we went on so many picnics and holidays, and then in 2000 he became my full-time carer. Through this I have made so many friends through my church, they’ve rallied around. God has been good, anyway.
When I was 16 and I started dialysis I honestly didn’t know, how long I would live. I used to set myself a goal and thought well, ‘if I made it to 25 years of age that would be pretty good.’ Then 25 came, and then I was 30 and then I forgot about it because I was too busy doing other things. I was too busy with selling dinnerware and stainless steel and then the radio job came and I was just having a life and that’s what it is – you’ve got to have a life. I used to fit in dialysis with my life, not my life with dialysis. My life came first; dialysis was just a part of it.
"I used to fit in dialysis with my life, not my life with dialysis."
Someone that starts dialysis now, they’ve got such a good chance of living a wonderful, wonderful life. I’ve had an amazing life. I’ve seen so much. If I didn’t have dialysis, I wouldn’t be here. I’ve had 50 years of life, living on an artificial kidney, and without it I would not be here.
Fresenius Medical Care and Susanne Williams would like to acknowledge the former and current staff of The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Renal Unit and Home Dialysis Unit, Adelaide, as well as the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Renal Unit, Adelaide, and South Australia Health (Government of South Australia) for supporting and caring for Susanne over the years.
- Understanding dialysis - The invention, development and sucess of the artificial kidney (PDF, 1.39 MB)
- Understanding dialysis - The invention and development of peritoneal dialysis (PDF, 1.06 MB)
- Understanding dialysis - The function, diseases and treatments for the human kidney (PDF, 802 KB)