Since the opening of the hemodialysis clinic in Mistissini in October 2014, Cree patients with advanced diabetes have been able to have their treatments in their community without having to travel to Chibougamau or stay in Montreal.
Being on dialysis involves three treatments a week, with each treatment lasting around four hours. The Cree Health Board communications team interviewed Kitty Coonishish, Simon Longchap, and Philomene Swallow about what it means to be able to spend the holidays at home with their families for the first time in years, and the challenges they continue to face because of their illness.
Kitty Coonishish started her dialysis treatments in Montreal in 1998. The next year, her treatments were moved to Chibougamau. She has been going there three times a week since then.
Q: What was your quality of life prior to dialysis treatments being offered in Mistissini?
KC: It was very tiring. I had to get up around 3:30 in the morning three times a week to get ready for the patient bus that came to pick me up around 5:30 a.m. I had to be in the hospital in Chibougamau at 7 a.m. for my treatments.
Q: What has changed?
KC: Having my treatments in Mistissini changed my life. I used to be so tired. I slept during the dialysis in Chibougamau and also on my way there and back. Now I get enough sleep and I am not so tired. I am really happy that the machines are here. When I have dialysis in Mistissini, I am not so tired. I also have relatives and friends who visit me at the clinic during the four hours the treatments lasts, so time passes quickly here. I also have more time for my grandchildren.
Kitty Coonishish’s son adds: It affects my life too in a positive way. My mother used to get up very early as she didn’t want to miss the patient bus. And she was gone a lot. Now am happy she’s here.
Q: How is this Christmas different for you?
KC: I watched my grandchildren decorating the tree this year. I am very grateful seeing Christmas this year and spending the time with my children and grandchildren. I was able to have a family supper and cook traditional food like I used to do before I started the dialysis treatments many years ago.
Cree elder Simon Longchap started dialysis in 2009. It’s been a difficult six years for the family.
Q: How has this Christmas holiday period been for you?
SL: It’s been a good Christmas with all my family together in Mistissini. We had a Christmas brunch and a Christmas supper.
Since 2009, when my dialysis started in Montreal, it’s been difficult in every way. Moneywise for us and also it’s been difficult for the young kids not used to lots of road travel because since 2009 the family has tried to follow me so we could be together during the holiday period.
Since 2010 I’ve been driving three times a week to Chibougamau to get my dialysis there. It was very tiring and it costs a lot because of the gas.
Q: How does it feel to have a dialysis center in Mistissini?
SL: It’s such a relief. Now I am one block away from the clinic. My daughter works there and checks on me. I get lots of visitors. My grandchildren also come and check on me. In Chibougamau and Montreal I had almost no visitors.
Q: What are the biggest differences in having your dialysis done here versus having to go to Chibougamau?
SL: Here, I get to see my wife, my kids and my grandchildren. When I had to go to Chibougamau, I didn’t see them all day. Lots of the stress related to traveling is also gone and it’s easier financially for us now. Before, my wife had to work to make some extra money to help me cover the cost of the gas. Our kids helped us too. This is not an issue anymore. We feel lighter and better since the opening of the dialysis center. It’s the best Christmas since 2009.
Philomene Swallow is on dialysis since 2001. She started dialysis in Val d’Or, and then in 2003 her dialysis treatments moved to Chibougamau.
Q: What are the biggest differences between having your dialysis done here in Mistissini versus having to go to Chibougamau?
PS: At the beginning I didn’t want to stop my treatments in Chibougamau because I was so used to it, but then I realized that it will be better to get treated here. Not having to get ready for the patient bus in the early morning makes a difference. When I was getting my treatments in Chibougamau it was sometimes difficult to coordinate for my meals. Also, the home care people couldn’t come as scheduled because I was away three times a week. It makes it financially easier to have the treatments back home. In Mistissini, I get visitors sometimes during the dialysis so time passes quicker. Since I started my treatments in Mistissini, I got to spend more time with my grandchild.
Philomene's husband Matthew Rabbitskin adds: Now at least I don't have to worry about my wife being on the road for long periods of time, but we still have other challenges. My wife gets lonely at home as not many people come and visit her. Everybody is busy working. It is difficult for her to visit some of her friends and family since most homes don't have a wheelchair ramp.
Article by: T. Philiptchenko