Susan Flesia, 56, has dedicated her personal and professional life to fitness and health. For 21 years, the former body builder served as a personal fitness trainer for Rhode Island residents, building a reputation as a force of positivity in her community.
When Susan learned her kidneys had failed in 2016 as a result of polycystic kidney disease (PKD), she began dialysis wondering if she’d be able to continue doing what she loves in the career that had inspired so many.
“I didn’t want to accept it,” Susan said. “As someone who had built their life around health and making sure something like this wouldn’t happen to me, it was devastating news.”
People with end stage renal disease (ESRD) undergoing dialysis often express a desire to exercise to regain energy and strength, but many report barriers to exercise, according to a recent study in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
Susan says home dialysis means she once again has control of her health. That is because home dialysis gives her the freedom and strength to continue doing what she loves—from mobility training to yoga. Though she no longer runs her renowned exercise studio, she still regularly advises clients who rely on her to reach their own fitness goals.
To mimic the work of her kidneys, Susan initially spent four hours a day, three times a week at Fresenius Kidney Care receiving dialysis treatment in center. Susan has since learned she can gain more flexibility and control administering her life-sustaining treatments at home on a NxStage home hemodialysis machine.
With training and support from her care team at Fresenius Kidney Care, Susan underwent a 12-week training course, learning how to administer treatments to herself in the comfort of her home on her own schedule.
“When I talked to fellow dialysis patients, they had nothing but great things to say about home dialysis. I wanted to give it a shot,” Susan said.
“Susan tackles every new challenge with the mantra ‘You’ve got this, you can do it.’ When she first started home hemodialysis she would actually say this over and over to herself,” Fresenius Kidney Care Warwick Home Therapy Nurse Valerie Seyboth said. “This is how she has always handled situations in her life. It’s not always easy, but she does it. Susan faces everything with a big bright smile on her face. The staff are all in awe of what she has accomplished. I know she inspires me every day.”
Susan hopes to one day receive a kidney transplant, but in the meantime, she’s continuing to live her passion, often walking the seawall with her clients who, now more than ever, are inspired by her incredible example.