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Dialysis patients call for local treatment

Angus “Nias” Bordeau, Betty Bordeau, and Ken Williams want to see the next generation of dialysis patients have the opportunity to get treatment right here in Kahnawake. Marcus Bankuti The Eastern Door

For Angus “Nias” Bordeau, 24 years of kidney dialysis have worn on him. But when asked, Bordeau, who is in his 70s, didn’t think the gruelling treatment has affected his mental health. 

But his wife, Betty Bordeau, doesn’t see it that way.

“Remember what you did two years ago?” she reminded him. “You wanted to quit.”

Yes, he did want that, he acknowledged – he had wanted to cease the treatment he needs just to live to see another few weeks, maybe even the next seven days.

“The hard part was the winter. I’d go out at quarter to five, clean the truck, clean my walkway, a little bit of the driveway. I still can shovel, but not like before,” he said. “Finally I got up one morning. I’m sitting here, she got up, she says, ‘Are you going?’ I said no, I quit.”

“I went to see his sister, who lives next door,” said Betty. “I told her everything about what he had said, and I went, well, I don’t know what to do. There’s nowhere to go.”

Things turned around, Betty said, and she asked Angus to let her know if he ever started to feel the same way again.

Angus and Betty feel a lack of local resources and especially a lack of local treatment options makes the grim reality of dialysis treatment – four-hour sessions three times weekly, with oppressive fatigue in between – all the more difficult to bear for dialysis patients in Kahnawake and their loved ones.

Angus believes he never would have thought of stopping treatment had he been accessing it in his own community.

He and his wife want to see these resources available to the next generation of Kahnawa’kehró:non dialysis patients, they said. They want local health authorities to recognize the difference this treatment would make for patients in town.

In response to an inquiry from The Eastern Door, Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre (KMHC) executive director Valerie Diabo signalled the treatment could one day come to the hospital, but stopped short of a firm commitment.

“We are quite aware that there are a significant number of community members who undergo dialysis on an ongoing basis,” said Diabo. “We would be quite favourable to developing a dialysis unit within the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre, but we have to be very clear that the process to create, operate, and fund such a unit takes a great deal of time and planning. 

“At this time, it is premature to comment on this topic in any degree of detail. It would be irresponsible to create expectations and timelines, though we can confirm that we have taken very preliminary steps in exploring this option.”

Ken Williams, who is also in his 70s, has been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes for 40 years.

Many Onkwehón:we face this kind of diabetes, he noted. 

According to Diabetes Canada, over 17 percent of Indigenous people living on-reserve in this country have diabetes.

“Indigenous peoples are diagnosed with diabetes at a younger age, have more severe symptoms when diagnosed, face higher rates of complications, and experience poorer treatment outcomes,” reads a summary on the organization’s website.

But it wasn’t until Williams caught COVID-19 in November 2022 that his kidneys failed. He’s been on dialysis ever since.

“When you’re sitting there, you’re thinking about the long time you’ve got to sit there. Every day, same old thing. I just feel like quitting. And there’s nobody to talk to about dialysis. No counsellor, no nothing.”

Like Angus, Williams finds the winters the hardest, when patients have to deal with cold and snow.

He has no qualms, however, in highlighting the mental health impacts of treatment.

“You know what happened when I found out I had cancer and it was terminal? A joy came over me. I’m escaping that machine that keeps me alive,” said Williams, who shared that he has a life expectancy of only a couple years.

“The main focus I want to get across is the depression we go through,” said Williams. “It’s stressful. It’s depression.

“If I didn’t have to drive an hour from there to back – I would love to just drive to Kateri, which is only five minutes from my place. You get hooked up right away and out right away. That’s what we want when we go into dialysis. We want to get in and get out.”

Sometimes he waits an hour to get hooked up to the machine, he said, making a long appointment even worse.

Local treatment would also enable him to take Kahnawake’s medical transport service to his appointments, he said, rather than getting his car ready in the winter. It would also save parking fees, which add up.

Having to go to facilities outside the community also compounds the feelings of isolation that can come with the treatment.

“The other thing when I’m at dialysis, I notice I don’t get a lot of conversation in with the French nurses there. Some of them mostly just speak French. For them to have a dialogue with us, they can’t. They have a hard time explaining medication to us,” he said.

“I hear them joking and laughing with the French dialysis patients.”

Despite the indication that the hospital has taken steps to explore bringing dialysis to the hospital, Betty is not satisfied.

“We’re being forgotten,” she said. “I’m one of them. I’ve been doing this 24 years. I know. I left my job, I did, to take care of him, because we don’t have children. It’s very important to us.”

She acknowledged it could take a long time to implement, but she believes the time to move forward is now.

“We may never see it, we won’t, but at least it’ll be there for other people,” she said.

marcus@easterndoor.com

This article was originally published in print on June 21 in issue 33.25 of The Eastern Door.

Marcus is an award-winning journalist and managing editor of The Eastern Door, where he has been reporting since 2021 on issues that matter to Kahnawake and Kanesatake. He was previously editor-in-chief of The Link and a contributing editor at Our Canada magazine.

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Marcus is an award-winning journalist and managing editor of The Eastern Door, where he has been reporting since 2021 on issues that matter to Kahnawake and Kanesatake. He was previously editor-in-chief of The Link and a contributing editor at Our Canada magazine.