Sunday, March 05, 2006

Dialysis

Several weeks ago, I raced out of here one morning, anxious to have enough time to warm the car up and clean it off before I left to go pick up my father. We had received some heavy, wet snow that had covered everything. When the snow ended, freezing rain started up. There was a layer of snow on the car, along with some ice that had built up. Thankfully, I was able to clean off the car without too much effort. As I drove along, I discovered that the freezing rain was staying on the window, so I had to keep the defroster on high to try and keep it clean. The road was slippery in some places, but I didn't actually find it all that bad for driving, at least at that point. I picked my dad up to take him to dialysis, something I need to do 3 days a week, rain or shine, sleet or snow. There have been a few trips when the driving was pretty scary, esp. with all of the other traffic, but so far we've managed. Thankfully we don't have to travel too far.

Dialysis is a life saving treatment for patients whose kidneys have failed and no longer clean off the impurities & waste from the human body. It is a treatment that needs to be done regularly, and cannot be missed. It is something that once started, will continue for the rest of the person's life. In some cases, if the person is younger and a good candidate, transplant surgery can be an option. The only thing with this is that they need to find another good kidney that is a match. In most cases it is a close family member who donates one of their kidney's.. Anti-rejection medication has to be taken for the rest of the person's life, and hopefully they are able to handle it all and live normally. Our body has two kidneys, so we can actually survive with just one good functioning kidney. The problem is when we develop kidney disease and they end up quitting, or the level of function is reduced so much that it is not filtering the waste from our body. If our kidneys aren't functioning enough to get rid of the waste, then we either have to find something that will clean the waste, or be prepared to become quite sick and eventually having all of our organ's shutting down.

Dialysis is a huge commitment on the patient, and on the person who ends up driving them in the case of either younger children, or elderly patients. Some are fortunate enough to be able to drive themselves after a treatment, but because there is a higher percentage of people who are elderly ones, they often don't drive anymore and are in need of regular transportation. Treatment usually means going three times a week, for a period of approx. 3-4 hours, plus the time that is involved in hooking them up and taking them off of the treatment.

There are several different types of dialysis treatment, and the most common one used is done at the hospital or a special clinic which is hemodialysis. There are however a few treatment types that can be done at home and known as peritoneal dialysis. All are time consuming, and require commitment. About 90 percent of dialysis patients receive hemodialysis, in which the blood is circulated outside the body and cleaned inside a machine before returning to the patient.

My dad is going for the hemodialysis at the hospital, and needs to be driven to the hospital & picked up, 3 days a week. Thankfully the hospital in our town has a dialysis unit, which was started up approx. 3 or 4 years ago. If it didn't we would have to make the drive to another hospital approx. 1 hour's drive away. We did that for the first couple of months after he started treatment 2 ½ years ago, and it was really hard having to drive that distance, fill in the time waiting, and then driving back home thro' rush hour traffic, and miserable weather as we started just before winter. It was a long day for us both, and my dad found the added time in the car traveling, along with the stress of dealing with the traffic and weather conditions was just too much.

Before treatment can start they have to make several incisions in the chest & neck area, and this serves as the access area, going into an artery & a vein. Another way is to start an access place in the arm where an artery & vein are joined and allowed several months for it to heal before it can be used. This required some surgical time and tests at another hospital. Because of the type of access my dad has, he must go back down there every so often to get the line in his chest changed. The type of line that he has in his chest has a higher risk of infection, but is the easiest to access, and the least painful once it's been put in. It was the type that he chose, and has refused to have the one done in the arm. Perhaps because of his age since he's 80 years old, and he figures if he has to go for dialysis, then he's going to do it the most comfortable way he can.

One of the things with hemodialysis is the fact that the blood pressure can be affected by the treatment esp. if the patient has problems with their pressure. It's also an evasive treatment with the blood, and can be very tiring for the patient.

It is not a cure, but only a treatment. The only thing that can end the treatment, is a kidney transplant, and only if the body does not reject it. Patients must learn to watch their diets with great care, and their various levels will need to be monitored regularly.

The leading causes of end-stage renal (kidney) disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. The only way to avoid ending up with renal/kidney failure, is to start taking care of your kidneys when you are younger, and watching your diet.

If your kidneys are normal, they don't need special care. A healthy, balanced diet and enough water to quench thirst are adequate to keep kidneys working fine. Fad diets, such as those very high in protein, however, can hurt your kidneys. Drinking very little water, or an overabundance of water (more than 8 quarts a day), may also damage these organs.

Other than illnesses, the real kidney killers are drugs--they must pass through the kidney to be filtered out of the bloodstream. Some antibiotics, anesthesia medications, and antipsychotic drugs may damage kidneys. Even over-the-counter painkillers, if taken in large doses, may lead to kidney failure. In the same way, even common household chemicals can also harm your kidneys if ingested of inhaled so be careful.

For now, my dad seems to be doing well on dialysis, and we try to plan a lot of the days around his treatments and then do the other things that he needs to do. Thankfully dialysis is available as a life saving treatment for all who need it.

3 comments:

mo said...

Wow, great information Donna! Do you just know this stuff or did you look it up?
I think I'm going to take better care of my kidneys now.

Dawn said...

Not always something we can control, but if one can look after them, it's better than having to go thro' this.

Dawn said...

Oh, and I looked up some of the info, and have learned a fair amount just from what we've been told and what my dad has had to go thro'.