Utahn on dialysis inspires hope through life-long struggles

SALT LAKE CITY — Paul Bindrup, 44, says he never had a chance to lead a “normal” life.

Hospitalizations and visits to the doctor were more frequent than trips to the playground for Bindrup from an early age because he was born with only one, partially functioning kidney.

He received his first kidney transplant at the age of five, and over the next 16 years, Bindrup received two more kidney transplants and was put on dialysis three times.

Bindrup says he had a near-death experience during his third transplant at age 21 because it was associated with cytomegalovirus (CMV), a common virus that can be dangerous for patients with compromised immune systems.

Bindrup spent about three months alive before an experimental treatment saved his life. However, the difficult part was far from over.

“They told me I would never walk and speak again,” Bindrup explains.

But he did. Bindrup continued after his near-death experience and managed to get out of the hospital a few months later.

“There is a drive within me that drives me. I feel like I’m in a race. You don’t give up halfway through the race.”

While Bindrup is back on dialysis and unable to work, music has become his passion and purpose in life.

Bindrup says he strives to inspire others now through his tunes and life experience. He also wants to draw attention to the dialysis nurses and technicians who he feels are under-recognized.

“You see things that are probably very difficult. I respect each and every one of them,” Bindrup explains.

However, he remembers one nurse in particular: Leslie Dahlberg.

“She’s someone I really really love as a person, who cares about every single person she came in contact with, even if she was angry and grumpy,” notes Bindrup.

While Dahlberg retired last December, she has been dedicated to her profession for 15 years. Admittedly, Dahlberg says she underestimated how many people she would have to see die when she entered the profession.

However, the people she met and cared for during this time kept her in her work.

Dahlberg wants kidney failure patients and their loved ones to know that dialysis doesn’t have to be the end because she’s seen how the treatment has helped her patients feel better and live longer.

“It gives them so much more time with their families. They can still do so many things they love to do,” Dahlberg explains.

While dialysis is not the preferred treatment for people with severe chronic kidney disease, transplants are, but they are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.

According to The Kidney Project, the need for donor kidneys in the United States is increasing at 8 percent each year.

According to the latest medical data, there are more than 100,000 patients on the kidney transplant list in the United States.

While a transplant is no longer an option for Bindrup, he sees medical advances on the horizon that could buy him even more time on Earth.

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