By Peter Laird, MD
Tom Martinez is a man that has spent his life motivating and teaching thousands of college and high school athletes throughout his long career. During this time, he has not only secured his place as one of the most successful college level coaches, but his dedication to never quiting and always pushing forward is an inspiration not only to those involved in sports, most notably, his prodigy, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, but for all that face life threatening diseases. Sadly, Tom lost his battle, but his words of encouragement remind all struggling against the ravages of diabetes, heart disease and chronic kidney disease that at times, it is the simply the will to live that endures:
Sadly, the testimony of his wife is one repeated over and over in America where she stated matter of factly that dialysis was killing him:
Martinez suffered through continuous kidney issues and complications from Type 2 diabetes as he continued to be consumed by football and coach protégés ranging from Brady to current college prospects. His health declined precipitously over the summer as he sought a kidney transplant, but the dialysis — a process that alternately weakened and sustained him — left him drained in recent days.
“We were convinced the dialysis was slowly killing him,” said his wife of 46 years. “UCLA (Medical Center) just couldn’t be bothered to take someone at such high risk.”
My condolences go out to his family and his friends, but I would hope that the message of dialysis is not tainted as a life taking procedure from this sad account. When done properly, it can and does sustain and restore life for thousands of patients. Unfortunately, with the stated heart, diabetes and kidney problems, Tom Martinez was at the highest risk of cardiovascular death at the onset of his dialysis treatment. The media is not discussing his dialysis modality, but it goes without saying that the majority of dialysis patients in America who could benefit from the longer and slower nocturnal treatments pioneered in Canada for exactly this type of patient most likely was not presented to him if he fell within the usual informed consent where as little as 12% of patients hear of optimal dialysis modalities.
The world has lost a wonderful coach, father and husband when Tom Martinez succumbed to his long battle against diabetic complications with his heart attack. There are many battles worth fighting, not the least of which is the battle to overcome the American dialysis hegemony in opposing optimal dialysis practices in favor of for-profit, greed motivated short, violent and debilitating dialysis sessions most patients experience daily. I truly understand why many "hate dialysis." Sadly, Tom Martinez widow may have sagely spoken well that the dialysis was slowly killing him. What a sad testimony for such a nobel experiment suborned by profiteering and greed.
This is just one more case, one more reminder that we need to never quit until dialysis modalities do as they were envisioned by Dr. Scribner when his serendipitous invention of the Scribner shunt brought the promise of his predecessors to life. Tom Martinez appears by his widow's report to possibly be one of many thousands of patients ill served by dialysis. Never quiting as Tom Martinez encouraged in life, let his death inspire those in the dialysis industry to just "win one for the gipper" and bring to an end the type of dialysis in America that leads widows to speak bitterly of this therapy. Instead, let it be that people on dialysis had never quit and were grateful for all. We can only dream.