From time to time, I fall into the rabbit hole of self-pity; feeling sorry for my health plight as an end-stage renal disease patient on dialysis. Usually, I’m able to scramble out of it relatively quickly. I always feel pangs of shame afterward—my disease is, after all, at least treatable.
After pulling myself out of the latest rabbit hole, I was shocked to find the story of Hu Songwen, a 43-year-old Chinese man who has managed to keep himself alive for the past 13 years using a homemade dialysis machine. That’s roughly the same amount of time that I’ve been a dialysis patient.
After six years of dialysis in a traditional hospital setting that he and his family could no longer afford, he set out to do it himself. “In 1999, he decided to build his own machine using kitchen equipment, medical parts, and a textbook,” writes Malcolm Moore reporting for the Telegraph. “As long as you have a high school degree, understand the principle of dialysis, follow the operational instructions, and keep a close watch during the process, nothing should go wrong,” he said to the Southern Weekly newspaper. Nonetheless, two of Hu’s friends have died using similar homemade dialysis machines.
Hu says his largest expense has been ~US$790 for a blood pump. He tried to make his own, but it failed. Each treatment costs Hu ~US$10 for chemicals and an artificial kidney filter he reuses eight times.