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Strunk Encourages Others Who Need Dialysis

By Eugenia Jones

With twenty consecutive years of dialysis under his belt, James “Hap” Strunk shared details of his experiences with dialysis in the hope he might inspire others who need treatment.  Strunk wants everyone to know dialysis is not a death sentence and that it is possible to live a long, full, and happy life while undergoing years of treatment.

In 1987, Strunk was just twenty-six years old when he was diagnosed with nephropathy. Strunk learned about his diseased kidneys as a result of having bloodwork conducted when he applied for some insurance.

“At that point, I was told my native kidneys might last two more years,” Strunk recalled.

Strunk’s kidneys defied the odds as they did relatively well until l993 when Strunk began to lose weight.  With his kidney function continuing to decline, Strunk finally went on dialysis for the first time in September l995.  A few months later, in January 1996, Strunk received a transplant for one kidney.  He did well for four years before having to go back on dialysis in September 2000.  He has remained on nonstop dialysis now for more than nineteen years.

Since Strunk is medically not a viable candidate for peritoneal dialysis administered at home or a second transplant, he travels three days per week to a dialysis clinic in Burnside to take his four hour treatments.  Strunk, his family, and employees plan schedules around his dialysis treatments.  When Strunk and his family travel for vacations, he schedules treatments through a clinic social worker at clinics convenient to his getaways.  He makes good use of his time spent in the dialysis chair by reading and catching up on emails.

“My wife, Tracey, and staff at the funeral home pick up the slack on my treatment days,” Strunk said.  “I’ve got a great support system with Tracy, my boys, my church family, and my staff.”

Strunk commented about his physical limitations.

“I don’t have the endurance I would like for doing things like plowing and hoeing in the garden and doing heavy work,” Strunk explained.  “But as far as that goes, I question whether or not that is me or just age.”

For Strunk, the worst thing about dialysis is trying not to gain fluid weight between treatments.  He also has to be careful about eating pinto beans and avoiding citrus.

“A big part of life seems to revolve around food and drink,” Strunk said with a smile.  “It’s hard not to overindulge between treatments.  Most days I do well.”

Strunk’s two grown sons, Andy and Matt, grew up with their father doing dialysis.  For them, it was just a normal routine.

“My early prayer was to see my children grow,” Strunk reflected.  “Now, I have grandchildren to enjoy.”

Strunk was quick to acknowledge his wife of thirty-eight years, Tracey.

“She was my high school sweetheart,” he recalled.  “We met when we worked at Tombstone Junction.  She has been a rock throughout all of this.  She has been selfless and has taken care of me, the boys, and the business when it needed to be done.”

Strunk feels blessed his chronic disease is one that can be treated and allows him to live a normal life.


“Dialysis machines and medications are so much better today,” he noted.  “At one time, two to five years on dialysis was your window.  Now, you can live to an old age.  People tell me they don’t know I’m sick, and that’s how I want it to be.  I’m not a victim.  I’ve done what others would do.”

Strunk reiterated that sharing his story is not about him, but rather, about encouraging others who face dialysis.

“You do adjust to it,” Strunk declared.  “You just have to wrap your head around it and go on.  It doesn’t help to be angry.  This is the hand we’ve been dealt, and we’ve got to play it.  Faith is crucial.”

“Remember,” he continued encouragingly.  “If I can do this, you can, too.”

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