A Passion for Life: Professional Musician and Tablo Home Dialysis Warrior
Reggie’s talent and passion for music, and his positive, independent spirit have helped him through the challenges of kidney disease. Now managing his dialysis at home with Tablo, he is happy to be empowered and in control of his health, and living life on his schedule.
Reggie Boyd, Jr., a professional musician for more than 50 years, finds great joy in performing or teaching most any style of music on electric guitar, including pop, classic rock, dance, R&B, country, Latin, Afro Cuban and jazz. Previously based in Chicago and Los Angeles, and now living in CA’s Bay Area, Reggie has an enormous passion for his craft, for performing live, and for teaching master classes. His wide-ranging musical résumé includes work on television shows, commercials, video games, session recordings, directing, and production work in his recording studio. Also, he has toured extensively with many major artists including The Staple Singers, Bob Marley, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle, and many others. He has been influenced by music his whole life—his father was Reggie Boyd, Sr., an influential Chicago R&B guitar player who played on almost all the Chess Records recordings in the 1950s and 60s.
Reggie has a positive outlook and tenacious spirit that you can absolutely sense when you meet him. It is exactly this resiliency—and the desire to simply live a high quality of life, and have people enjoy his music—that has helped him manage his end-stage renal disease (ESRD). And, he’s happy to be in control of his own dialysis treatment and schedule, since going home with Tablo late last year.
From In-Center to Independence
Reggie has faced many challenges on his ESRD journey, including two kidney transplants, removal of one of the transplanted organs, dialysis treatment on and off for many years, Marfan syndrome, chronic pain, cardiovascular issues, and many days spent feeling sick and unable to work.
Following his nephrectomy in November 2019, he experienced health issues that greatly impacted his quality of life. And, he had to return to what he calls in-center “generic dialysis,” in which his treatment was run with little attention to his blood flow or dialysate flow rates, or how he was feeling during his dialysis. He felt like he had no control over his treatment or health. “There’s nothing worse than feeling sick, and having to wait to start my treatment if the staff is running behind, or to have to wait for staff to come over during treatment if there was a problem. I was always waiting on someone,” Reggie says. By the time the COVID-19 pandemic took hold last year, he was feeling much worse.
Reggie met with his nephrologist, Dr. Alvarez, who mentioned to him that Tablo—that had recently become available for use at home—might be the perfect fit. “COVID was making in-center dialysis risky, I was frustrated with my care there, and my immune system was compromised. I said to him, let’s give it a try,” he says.
Reggie had been involved in the early development of Tablo, so he had some background knowledge about the system’s capabilities. He created the “jingle” music that plays when a console is started, and the “happy birthday” music that the machine plays on a patient’s birthday, and he played guitar on a promotional video for Tablo.
He received his Tablo console in December 2020, and was trained quickly and easily to perform dialysis himself at home. Reggie says he immediately felt better than he had on previous machines, both mentally and physically. “I started using Tablo, and everything changed. I did not expect my life to change this much,” Reggie explains. “It’s a gentler machine. I feel comfortable and relaxed treating at home, and I’m not anxious like I used to be when I was going in-center. I’m mechanically inclined, and I learned everything about how Tablo works. Also with my wife being a nurse, she educated me on physiology.”
“Now I’m in charge. I do treatment when I want, I feel better, and I have a better quality of life.”
With guidance from Dr. Alvarez, Reggie learned to adjust and personalize his dialysis, and make Tablo work for him, each time he treats. “I’m very in tune with my body. As I feel a symptom coming on during treatment, such as the slightest bit of dizziness or cramping, or as I see any changes in my blood pressure, I can lower the blood or dialysate flow slightly, so that I don’t feel bad,” he continues. “Tablo tells me step-by-step what to do on the screen, and it gives me an alert if it sees something going on in my treatment that I didn’t see. We started working together, Tablo and me. That’s just amazing to me. Now I’m in charge. I do treatment when I want, I feel better, and I have a better quality of life. And I have my time back. That’s the biggest thing that Tablo gives me, time,” Reggie says, with emotion evident in his voice.
“I’m so happy that I can control my treatments. I’m the kind of person that likes to handle things myself. That’s the beauty of Tablo for me. It’s really been life changing. Life is good!”
Reggie also offers his advice to other patients who might be considering asking their nephrologist about going home with Tablo. “First, stay positive, you can do this. Also don’t be afraid of putting in the needles, it’s easy to do and you get used to it quickly. Then, having Tablo at home is nothing but a complete joy. You can set up your space so it’s comfortable, and the supplies are not much at all. Set up and take down are very quick and easy. Tablo prompts you through everything.”
Important Moments That Make Up a Life
One of Reggie’s fondest memories took place in the 1970s, when he was about 20. The experience inspires him to this day to manage his kidney disease so he can keep doing what he loves.
Reggie was living in Chicago, and becoming serious about his guitar playing and following in his father’s footsteps with a musical career. Most every Friday night, he would gather with musician friends to watch their favorite rock bands play live on the late-night TV music variety show, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. On one particular Friday, they sat down to watch what they thought was going to be the rock band UFO, but instead, the show featured The Staple Singers, a popular gospel, soul and R&B group. Reggie and his friends were in disbelief, and angry at the turn of events. “What is this? Where are the rock bands?” they asked each other.
The very next Wednesday, Reggie was invited and hired to play guitar with none other than … The Staple Singers. Then, that Friday, only one week after he and his friends saw them play on TV, Reggie was on stage performing with the band at the Astro Dome in Houston, TX, with Smokey Robinson, B.B. King, Marvin Gaye and other famous artists opening for them. Reggie describes that night, with vivid memories of the roaring of the crowd as he played, as one of his greatest moments—when he knew that all the practicing, hard work, and sacrifice to become a musician had paid off. He then went on tour with the band. For years after that, he played and toured with many famous and talented artists, and he still receives invitations to play.
Now that Reggie is feeling more empowered and in control of his health since starting home dialysis on Tablo seven months ago, he is back to doing the things that are the most meaningful to him: practicing guitar, teaching master classes, and soon, playing live on stage again.
“Some people might say I got dealt a bad hand. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Being sick is just part of the Reggie Boyd story,” he says. “It made me understand what is really important in life: people and love. I’m able to practice and teach music most every day. Outset took the time to make things better for me, to make the technology simple to use, so that I can live my life. I’m so lucky.”
Read more about Reggie and his music on his website, at reggieboydjr.com.
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