CANTON, Ohio - Dolores Hodge of Louisville doesn't like to sit still with nothing to do. Neither do Pat Suter of Navarre, Sandy Tillis of North Canton, Ruth Walter of Carrollton or David Baldwin of Orrville.
The group has formed a family of sorts, mainly because they have one thing in common -- their spouses are in kidney dialysis every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at the Aultman Dialysis Center in Canton.
"We all have spouses here, but there are people who come here to wait for sisters, brothers, and friends," Suter said while waiting for her husband, Gary. "Dolores came up with the idea of playing cards and Mary Lou Hiles came up with the idea to bring food."
Others read books, play puzzles, and do a variety of other things as the dialysis process takes hours. But at least once a month, these patient families gather to "catch up" with each others lives.
The group has become tight, with some the bonds stretching through months, and in some cases, years.
Most people think that coming to dialysis three times a week is a horrible experience, said Lisa Johnstone, center director. This group has taken a different approach.
"These patients have found a way to make the best of it and have truly become friends who genuinely care about one another. They set up card games in the lounge, frequently bring food and find every reason to celebrate with each other. They share buffets for the patients and even invite the staff to partake."
"We are own support group," said Tillis, who considers her friends to be a part of her extended family. "If any of us has a question, we go to each other for answers and advice because chances are, one of us has already experienced it."
Walter's husband, Harold, has been in the hospital several times for heart, kidney and other health problems during the past year.
"On May 9, it was one year since he started on dialysis. It has just been one thing after another, but having these people here to talk to has been wonderful," she said.
Tillis said her husband, Rich, has been in dialysis two years due to renal failure. "Without this group, I don't know what I would do. You can't understand what we go through unless you experience it. And these people have."
And, she said, they are accountable to each other.
Hodge's husband, Lewis, still gardens at 93. "He is very active and keeps going," she said, adding that for her, the group of friends has made the trip to dialysis fun. "I come here and laugh."
Baldwin, who waits for his wife, Marlene, said the group keeps him humble.
"They are a lot of fun and it makes the waiting so much easier," he said.