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Wadsworth woman suffering from lupus takes dialysis machine on world travels

Just one bags weighs about 15 pounds explains DyanShanahan Wadsworth as she gets her dialysis machine ready. | Frank Abderholden/Sun-Times

Just one of the bags weighs about 15 pounds explains Dyana Shanahan of Wadsworth as she gets her dialysis machine ready. | Frank Abderholden/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 16, 2014 3:47AM

An autoimmune disease destroyed a Wadsworth woman’s kidneys, but the travel consultant was not going to let it take away her life, which revolves around traveling.

So Dyana Shanahan now packs up a couple of hundred pounds of equipment and solution that provides her dialysis while she sleeps, cleaning out the toxins.

“I don’t want to be confined to my house. I’d rather be sick in a foreign country,” she said while showing her Baxter-made APD Systems machine that hooks up to a catheter that goes into her stomach, another tube drains into her bathtub,

“Travel is my passion. I have always worked life around my next trip,” said Shanahan, who works as a travel consultant for Lake Forest Travel.

And her doctor’s reaction to her plans? “Well, I drove him crazy,” she said with a laugh. But modern technology can make it work and she has been to a number of European countries since she was diagnosed. She also travels a lot inside the United States for her youngest daughter’s cheerleading competitions. In the next month she will go to Indianapolis and Atlanta. Her husband, Daniel, and her two older daughters are all scheduled to go to Hawaii later this year.

The 43-year-old said her health problems started around 1993 when she was pregnant with her second daughter and she started getting weird symptoms, like a swollen ankle, even though she didn’t remember twisting her ankle. Finally one doctor suggested being tested for lupus.

“From 1993 to 2004 it was pretty manageable with medications like steroids and antimalarial drugs,” she said, which helped with some of the joint pain she was experiencing.

She remembers being shocked when the doctor brought her the results of her lupus test. “He said I was leaking protein into my urine and lupus was attacking my kidneys. I was like, ‘What!?’ That was kind of a head spin there,” she said.

Four months later, she had gained 30 pounds of fluid from the waist down. “My body was not getting rid of it. I couldn’t bend over because I was afraid the skin on my knees would pop because of the tightness from all the fluid,” she said.

A local hospital did all they could for her, so she was sent to Rush University Medical Center in Chicago where she got help from Dr. Stephen Korbet, also known as the “Kidney King.” At one point, they had to insert a tube in her neck at 9 p.m. at night without being put under because she had eaten that day. They did blood dialysis, where the blood is run through a machine, and she was given blood transfusions.

“It was pretty scary,” she said.

But she didn’t like that dialysis. “Seeing that warm blood come out of my body, it just grossed me out,” she said. “I didn’t want to do that again,” she added.

Her doctor, knowing of her travel lifestyle for work and pleasure, suggested her present set up where a dextrose-based solution is pumped into her stomach at night where it “dwells” in her peritoneum, drawing out the toxins, which are then flushed out of her body through another tube. In nine hours at night, she goes through two solution bags, each equal to two liter bottles of pop, she said.

Traveling would seem difficult. The machine, which has a suitcase of its own and can be taken as a carry-on on flights, weighs in at about 50 pounds. Then she needs the solution, which comes in a box with two bags weighing about 30 pounds. She took 250 pounds of solution on her trip to Europe where she did her dialysis in the stateroom of a small cruise ship that she and her husband took down the Danube River in Slovakia.

“You do have to be pro-active and call the airlines,” she said, plus you need to get there very early because the airlines will send you to different places because it doesn’t deal with medical equipment very often. Boxes have to be opened to be screened and swiped for gunpowder.

“It’s either that or stay home and I don’t want to stay home,” she said. Shanahan and her husband were successful franchise owners at one point owning 27 Domino’s locations before selling them. It was a busy time. Now they have just one Jersey Mike’s store and her husband works for that corporation.

“If it’s worth doing, you can find a way to get it done,” she said, “I don’t want to be confined.”

Now her lupus has been dormant and she started the process to get a kidney transplant last Friday. “I could go back to leading a normal life,” she said.

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