A Patient Care Technician Who Can Relate: Brian Coleman’s Kidney Disease Journey

A Patient Care Technician Who Can Relate: Brian Coleman’s Kidney Disease Journey

When people on dialysis ask patient care technician (PCT) Brian Coleman for advice, they know he’s got answers. Coleman has kidney failure, so he understands what home dialysis, transplants, and in-center dialysis are like. “My patients say they love having someone in the clinic who really understands what they mean when they say they’re feeling bad,” he says. “Because I know their exact feelings, I can really relate to them and give them a little extra insight.”

Kidney disease has always been a part of Coleman’s life and working in the Fresenius Kidney Care center in Baton Rouge has helped him make the most of his experiences. “I love what I do,” he says. “What better way of giving back to the doctors and nurses who helped me than by helping other people in my situation?”

Firsthand Experience 

Coleman was born with a rare condition that caused kidney failure, so he began peritoneal dialysis (PD) as an infant. By age two, he needed his first kidney transplant. Fortunately, his mother was a match, and she was able to donate a kidney to her son. Coleman was successful with his donated kidney for 17 years before he needed another transplant — this time, from his father.

Medication complications damaged his second kidney, and while he did regain some kidney function after adjusting the medications, Coleman would soon begin hemodialysis. A lifetime of managing kidney disease had prepared him for this eventuality. “A lot of people ask me how I handled it, but it was something I was always prepared for,” Coleman says. “It was just another milestone in my life.” 

While he did in-center dialysis treatments, Coleman went to school to become a medical assistant. This education made him more interested in his own dialysis treatments, and as Coleman recalls, “One day, I just got a little curious and asked if I could insert my own needle.” His dialysis nurse  encouraged him to give it a try. “I thought it was fairly easy because I had training from school,” Coleman says, and he began inserting his own needles at every session. He adds, “I’ve talked to people in the center, and they say they couldn’t see themselves doing their own needles. I tell them, ‘Nobody knows your access better than you, and it gets easier every time.’” While Coleman felt like he benefitted from his medical training, many patients begin home dialysis with no medical background. 

Coleman’s care team recognized his success and urged him to make the most of his experiences. He says, “They were like, ‘Well since you’re inserting needles yourself and you’re already in the medical field, how would you feel about working at a dialysis center?’”

Gratitude and Giving Back

Coleman’s interest in the medical field began in childhood; his health conditions made him more susceptible to illness, and he was frequently hospitalized. “That’s what I was always around growing up, so that’s what interested me,” he says. “When I was five or six years old, I wanted to be a doctor of course, but eight years of school? That’s not for me,” Coleman laughs. “But I still wanted to be in the medical field. I’ve seen how hard these people work to care for other people. I wanted to give back to those people who helped me.” 

Coleman called on his medical education as well as his experience performing his own dialysis treatments and was soon hired as a PCT. At that time, Coleman was still learning to perform his own dialysis treatments at home. He found himself quickly learning to operate both his home machine and those in the center.

“I’m not going to lie, at first I thought, ‘That’s just too much.’ I’d be going from doing dialysis at the clinic and then going home to set myself up,” Coleman says, expressing concern that dialysis would take over his life. But thinking back to what led him to this point, Coleman realized he was capable of striking a balance between dialysis at home and work — and, in fact, it was dialysis that gave him the freedom to work full time. He was ready to make a difference in the lives of others with kidney disease. 

Job Satisfaction

As a PCT at a Fresenius Kidney Care center, Coleman works closely with people on dialysis by assisting with treatments, tracking their progress, and sharing experiences. Although Coleman does his treatments at home, he takes comfort in spending time in-center with other people. “I talk to them while they’re on the machines and it takes my mind off my own situation. I love listening to their stories, they listen to mine, and we can relate to each other in a very special way.”

Coleman is especially grateful that working in a dialysis center gives him the opportunity to connect with patients in a new way. “In other jobs, I was seeing the patients for 30 minutes, then they’re gone. But these patients are here in the center for hours, so there’s nothing to do but chat and get to know people. That’s the highlight of my day. It’s a joy to see patients come in and then leave feeling a little better.”

Interested in using your experiences to help people with kidney disease thrive? Visit jobs.fmcna.com to see available opportunities.

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