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A portable dialysis unit makes woman's return home possible

Jeff King and Sheena King, with their dog Rufus.
Jeff King and Sheena King, with their dog Rufus.

FORTEAU, LABRADOR — When Sheena King drove down over Forteau hill earlier this month with her family she was overwhelmed with emotion.

She hadn’t been home in four years and there was a time when she thought she would never see her hometown again.

Now it was all laid out in front of her eyes: the beautiful village on the Labrador coast that she had always known, not exactly as she remembered it but pretty close.

“Elated” is how she says she felt in that moment.

Sheena, whose parents are Johnny and Audrey Dumaresque of Forteau, lives in St. John’s with her husband Jeff and their loyal service dog Rufus. She has a job with the provincial government.

In July, 2014, Sheena started dialysis treatment at the Waterford Dialysis Unit in St. John’s after suffering kidney failure.

This treatment, four times a week, detoxifies her blood. Since there’s no dialysis unit in the Labrador Straits area, she had started to think she would be never be able to return home again.

However, in January, 2016, Sheena started training with a nurse to use the NxStage home hemodialysis machine. She was able to start using it at her home in St. John’s in March.

In the last six months, through the Health Care Foundation’s fundraising efforts, she was able to receive a “warmer”. This, she explains, keeps the solution warm that cleans her blood. She says this makes her machine portable.

Now that she could take the machine with her and go anywhere she wanted, it wasn’t hard to decide where she would go for her first big trip – Sheena was heading back home.

Earlier this month, they shipped 660 pounds of equipment and supplies to Forteau, for the eight treatments she’ll be receiving during her time there.

On Friday, Aug. 4, her parents travelled to St. John’s to collect Sheena, her husband Jeff and her service dog, Rufus.

Together they drove back to the Labrador Straits.

They boarded the Strait of Belle Isle ferry on Sunday evening, Aug. 6., for the quick crossing to Forteau, and Sheena was home again.

 “It was a pretty awesome feeling coming down over Forteau hill Sunday night,” she said.

She hadn’t been there since her cousin’s wedding in 2013.


Spending time home

Sheena King’s return home has allowed for a family reunion for the Dumaresques of Forteau. Back row (left to right) are: Audrey Dumaresque (Sheena’s mother), Johnny Dumaresque (Sheena’s father), Deon Dumaresque (Sheena’s brother), and Dee Jay Maracle (Deon’s spouse), and front row: Jeff King and Sheena King, with their dog Rufus.

This return home has been a big occasion for the family.

Sheena, Jeff, and Rufus are staying at her parents’ home in Forteau. Meanwhile, her brother, Deon Dumaresque, is also visiting from Ontario with his spouse Dee Jay and Dee Jay’s daughter.

Sheena has been able to visit her grandmother, who she was worried she might not get to see again. And she says while she gets to see her parents in St. John’s sometimes, it’s not the same as being home with them.

With her brother and his girlfriend, who has never been to Labrador, they’ve been driving around sightseeing as well. And for Sheena, herself, there are new sights.

“There’s a lot of new things here now since I left, a lot of new roads where they’re doing all the work for Nalcor,” she said. “So, there’s lots of stuff . . . that we haven’t seen before.”

Sheena’s also just enjoying being able to do the little things back at home. On Tuesday morning, she got to feed the rabbits some apple.

“It’s the simple things you don’t appreciate until you don’t get to do them as much,” she said.

And there is still plenty to look forward to during her stay. She’s hoping to be able to get out in boat and says the family will also likely have a party at some point.

Over the weekend, she was looking forward to taking in the Bakeapple Festival in Forteau.

“It’s all pretty exciting,” said Sheena.

They’ll be heading back to St. John’s on Aug. 19.


Support and advocacy

Sheena says she couldn’t do the treatment without the support of her husband Jeff.

“We’re a team, like everything else in a marriage, but in this too,” she said. “You’re not supposed to treat without a partner.”

Both Sheena and Jeff are visually impaired but they work together to make life easier for each other.

“Together, we make the perfect match, they tell us,” she added.

She is also appreciative of the work of the dialysis team at Waterford Hospital in St. John’s.

“I got a good team behind me,” Sheena said. “They’re fantastic. They really support me and help me get stuff done that I need to do.”

NxStage Medical Inc. has recruited Sheena as an advocate for their company as part of the Home Dialysis Team. Sheena will be travelling across the country, doing speaking engagements on their behalf.

Currently, she has an appearance scheduled for Halifax in October and one for Ontario in November. And she’ll have more appearances later.

She’s looking forward to advocating for a system that has improved her life.

“The system has worked so well for me and I’m such a big fan of it because of what it has done for my life.”

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