A Little Kindness Helps Kidney Care Patients Keep Smiling

A Little Kindness Helps Kidney Care Patients Keep Smiling

A Little Kindness Helps Kidney Care Patients Keep Smiling

Several times per week and sometimes for years, patients with chronic kidney disease spend hours receiving lifesaving dialysis treatments at the hospital. Bernard Wilson, better known as Bernie, is a familiar face to many at Grand River Hospital. Bernie is a kidney care patient who is frequently at the hospital for dialysis and is known for his friendliness, his outgoing, positive spirit and always having a smile on his face—aptly, his motto is, “Keep smiling!”

“[Bernie is] somebody that we really kind of admired,” said Steven Sosnoski, a former screener at the hospital, of his and his coworkers’ experience getting to know Bernie. “We really looked forward to [him] coming in.”

Dialysis is a treatment for kidney care patients that filters potentially harmful waste, water and chemicals from their blood when their kidneys no longer can. Many don’t realize that dialysis is a long-term and typically ongoing treatment that can have a profound impact on a patient’s life—typically, dialysis is required three or four times every week, with each treatment being hours long. And unless a patient is a candidate for a kidney transplant, dialysis patients will need to continue these treatments for the rest of their lives.

For Bernie, dialysis has meant coming to the hospital, “approximately four times per week for four hours per treatment,” for the past nine years—that’s a total of approximately 1,872 hospital visits and about 7,488 hours spent receiving dialysis. Yet, Bernie’s positivity never wavers.

“I think the main thing … is [to] stay positive, be happy and—what I always say is keep smiling,” Bernie explained. “That makes the journey that I’m going through workable [and] manageable.”

All of the life changes Bernie has experienced since starting dialysis have been the hardest part of his journey so far, but he hopes that by talking about it and always showing up with a smile on his face, he will be able to help others who are facing something similar. Steven noted that, despite the challenges and extensive time commitment of dialysis, Bernie “just exerts [an] energy that just makes people gravitate towards [him].”

“I have to stay positive,” Bernie emphasized. “I have to take a bad situation and make it good.”

If Bernie’s story inspires you to consider spreading a little positivity of your own, there are so many things you can do to help local kidney care patients. Not only can you enhance their clinical experience by providing them with things like comfier, more functional dialysis chairs or kidney transplant education and support, but you can be a part of shaping their entire experience at the hospital. You can brighten someone’s day by supporting patient entertainment to make sure they have an enjoyable way to pass the time during treatments or treat a patient to a free coffee or tea at the hospital's Tim Hortons.

A simple but thoughtful gesture can truly go a long way. Because while we can’t control a patient’s need for dialysis, our goal is to invest in infrastructure, medical equipment, programs and service delivery models that will change the future of kidney care for the better and give patients like Bernie more flexibility, autonomy and a better quality of life—and your support will help make these things possible. For all of us. 

You never know when you or someone you love might be in need of kidney care, which is why our vision is to build a world class health system right here in our community. And you can help us make it happen. To learn more about Kidney Care at Grand River Hospital and discover all of the ways you can make a meaningful difference for local patients, visit GrandKidney.ca.