Potassium is a mineral found in most fruits and vegetables. Some food high in potassium are avocado, squash, spinach, potato and sweet potato, coconut water and coconut milk Filipinos use as ingredient in the most favored dish called “gata”.
To a normal person, I mean one who does not have kidney failure, potassium is required to have energy because it controls muscle function. When I was in my 40’s, before I got kidney disease, I suffered weakness of unknown origin. I was not ill, not depressed, not malnourished in the least bit. I slowly lost energy until I have taken to laying on the sofa. Finally, I decided to see a doctor. I don’t see a doctor unless I'm desperate. The doctor prescribed that I eat BANANAS! Lots and lots of bananas! I couldn’t believe the fruit was the cure. Banana is the top potassium provider. It worked! Thanks Doc! It turned out, I had been eating a lot but none of the potassium rich food.
Patients with kidney failure can no longer remove excess potassium. The level builds up in the body, hiding in leg, feet, and other muscles causing cramps. During dialysis, I’ve had cramps start on my toes then move up to my legs, then to my waist. Brian Benedict Reyes, my Dialysis Tech pushes my toes with his butt to reduce my cramp. When the cramp starts, I jokingly alert him “Brian! I need your butt!” I’m one of those who won’t admit they’re hurting.
Fun and games aside, the heart is categorized as a muscle. It beats because of potassium. Patients on dialysis are at risk for sudden cardiac death. Sciencedaily.com claims that nearly half of the population on dialysis die by cardiovascular disease. The heart could cramp like a leg. When it does, it’s called heart attack.
Dialysis effectivity differ by country, by company management, by financial consideration and by the patient’s individuality. DaVita, my dialysis center, tests my blood monthly to monitor what I’ve been doing to my body. My potassium level tells them I have been eating the Filipino food rich in potassium, like turon, gata, etc. My fluid level tells them I have been drinking like a fish. My phosphorus level tells them I have not been taking my binder with every meal, or every can of Diet Coke, which I refuse to give up through the eight years that I have been on dialysis.
In Jehovah God’s great mercy I have survived all these years on dialysis. My children say I’m “masamang damo”, an old saying in Tagalog which translates in English as “bad grass”, the saying means horses don’t eat bad grass so they don’t die.