PORTLAND, Ore. — Most students heading back to college have a long list of things to worry about like schedules, homework and finances.
But Nicholas LaHusen has a more pressing priority: Trying to stay alive.
The 23-year-old is a junior at Portland State University, majoring in Business Administration. He wants to start his own business.
Besides juggling classes, homework and everything else on a student’s schedule, LaHusen has an added complication. He has to make time for 12 hours of kidney dialysis every night.
"This is an every-day-I-have-to-do-it sort of thing, or I die," he said.
The dining room of LaHusen's apartment is stacked with boxes of dialysis fluid. He uses three bags a day.
LaHusen was diagnosed with kidney failure on Valentine’s Day 2016, the result of an auto immune disease. By then, he was already in pretty bad shape, suffering from migraine headaches and losing his vision.
"They took my blood pressure and it was 217 over 178," he said, adding that his blood pressure was high enough to trigger a heart attack or stroke.
After months of treatment, LaHusen stabilized and made the decision to stop going to a clinic and do the dialysis himself. Even though it meant putting a catheter in his abdomen and devoting 12 hours a night to the treatment, he wanted his days free so he could continue going to college.
LaHusen admits it’s not easy.
“Everything is planning," he said. "Planning when to take my meds, when to get hooked up to the machine."
Patients who choose to do dialysis at home do it for the convenience. But it's a challenge, according to David Scott, the transplant surgical director at OHSU and the medical director of the Pacific Northwest Transplant Bank.
“People choose this because it’s less burdensome. They don’t have to go three days a week and sit there," Scott said. "This allows you to do things during the day and travel. But it’s not easy. Kidney disease is a tough problem. Really, the best option for most patients is a transplant.”
LaHusen is on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, but it could be years before an organ is available.
“I’m not one to give up when things get hard,” he said, “I know it will happen when it happens, better not to worry about things I can’t change."