Having been on dialysis for the past 13 years could have given Blanche Rogers a reason to be cynical and self-centered. Instead, the 90-year-old Cleveland resident is a funny, fun-loving senior who still enjoys a good laugh and a good time with family and friends. Rogers, who has lived in Cleveland most of her life and retired from Charleston Hosiery, said, “I’m a person who enjoys everything. I just want to be good to everybody. Our mother was like that. She was always smiling.”
Jesse Beaty, Rogers’ younger sister by two years, added, “Blanche is always smiling too! She’s good to everybody.”
Beaty, a generous soul in her on right, offered her sister one of her kidneys but Rogers declined. Still, the two were as content and cheerful as ever as Rogers explained why she never bothered with seeking a donor match.
“I appreciated it,” Rogers said. “But they (doctors) use to — they didn’t like to do a kidney transplant on anybody after they were 65 years old and I was 77 when I got on it (dialysis). I was afraid to take the risk. I’ve had a lot of people tell me they would be glad to give me a kidney, but I said, “No thanks. I’m afraid.”
For most people, kidney damage occurs slowly over many years, often due to diabetes or high blood pressure. This is called chronic kidney disease. Experts say returning to good health after discovering chronic kidney disease involves more than medical attention. It involves accepting the disease, learning to live with it and getting on with your life. That is exactly what Rogers has done.
Content with where she is in her life, Rogers, a down-to-earth, agreeable person, sat on her sofa, smiling and said, “I’ve really had a good life! I’ve been married three times — outlived them all! They were all pretty good husbands. I was 19 when I first got married to Leonard Romines. I was 19 and he was 38. I only had one child, Danny, and it was by Leonard. The next one was James Baker. He was a schoolteacher. Oh boy, he was good! He was 20 years older than me. The last one, Tommie Rogers, was just two years older. I had a good time with all of them. All three of them were good to me.”
Although she and Beaty are very close, both agreed they are socially different when it comes to approaching people.
“I can meet strangers with ease,” Rogers said. “It won’t take me but a minute to get used to people. But Jesse is the other way. She’s quieter.”
When asked if she would be interested in a fourth trip down the isle, Rogers laughed. It’s obvious she still enjoys dressing up when she appears in public, nails polished, hair styled while wearing her distinctive smile. She laughed and said, “I like to try to look the best I can. It would be nice to have someone take you out to lunch every now and then. But I don’t think I want to get married anymore.”
Going for dialysis three times a week can “give you the blues,” according to Rogers, but the resilient, optimistic senior disclosed, “I throw it off some way! I try not to get in the blues. I always think of something good.”
Experts say the impact kidney disease has on your life depends on you. Successfully living with kidney disease takes a positive attitude, a commitment to succeed and a determination to maintain your usual lifestyle. Rogers is doing just that.
“I believe laughter is helping me to live longer. I really do,” Rogers said. “I’ve seen too many people too easy to give up. You’ve got to have a good time — just have it the right way! You can’t give up! You’ve got to keep going! If I feel myself feeling low, I think of something good.”
She and her sister agreed that prayer and Bible reading make a huge difference as well. Although changes are inevitable, because adjustments have to be made to facilitate dialysis, Rogers is proving it does not mean you have to put your life on hold. Instead, the more support a person has, the easier it is to adjust. Rogers says her physician, Dr. Bali Chhajwani, at Bradley Nephrology, has made a huge difference in her successful transition to dialysis, and in her positive attitude.
“He is so good. He’s precious. He’s been my doctor ever since I got on dialysis,” Rogers said. “He knew my kidneys were going down. He gave me pills, shots and they didn’t help. Finally, he said we’re going to have to put you on dialysis. He’s kind and patient. He’s just a wonderful doctor! He’s been so good to me. I’ve never had a doctor this good. He’s good all the way around.”
Rogers said the only thing wrong with her is “a little high blood” which she believes caused her kidney damage.
“I didn’t have sugar [connected with diabetes] though,” she added. “Most people on dialysis have it. But I don’t have it. I was on high blood pressure pills when I was in my 40s, and lived to 77 before I got on dialysis.”
For Rogers, living with dialysis is not the worse thing in life. Learning to enjoy life while you still can is too precious to waste it on complaining, she said. The actual experience of being on dialysis is said to be unique to each individual, however. The good news is that, after the initial shock, most people do come to terms with it and cope effectively in their own way. Laughter, prayer, a positive attitude and being around happy people are secrets to Rogers’ long, happy life, in spite of living with dialysis.
“When I was small, growing up — I always liked to be around old people. I don’t know why. I didn’t care anything about being with kids my age. I loved old people,” Rogers admitted. “I still do.”
Rogers and her two sisters have all outlived their mother, Nervy Mcfalls, who died at age 88. The oldest sister, Fredia Mcfalls, is 93. Rogers has one son, two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. She said it is her family, friends and the will to live that keep her going and smiling in spite of a few health problems — something she believes can keep a lot of people going despite dialysis or any other problems in life.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, 26 million American adults have chronic kidney disease and millions of others are at an increased risk. High-risk groups include those with diabetes, hypertension and family history of kidney disease. Early detection can help prevent the progression of kidney disease to kidney failure.
For further information about becoming an organ donor or making a gift, visit www.kidney.org.