Maximum purification
Kidney dialysis clinic has six regular patients

by Marty Brown
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 21/97) - Kidney dialysis is a treatment, not a cure, but it sure brightened the lives of five Northerners.

When Stanton Regional Hospital opened it's clinic in May 1996, patients on dialysis in Edmonton could finally come home.

All are on a list of people awaiting a new kidney, hoping against hope that if one is donated, it will match them. Twice a month, blood samples are sent to Edmonton to keep their hemoglobin counts as current as possible.

Meanwhile, machinery in the dialysis clinic on Stanton's second floor hums, whirs and flashes. IV bags drip and patients nap while computer numbers flash by and televisions are turned on to pass the time.

One session purifies 80 to 100 litres of blood. Machines suck blood out of arteries and after it's cleansed, push it back into the body through veins.

When you consider a person has between six to eight litres of blood in them, the blood is processed again and again. But not without a toll on the patient.

"Blood is out of the body for a time, so that causes stress to the patient and blood pressure goes low," said nurse Rhonda Reimer, head of the clinic. "People are really tired when they go home. But when you consider they'd be dead in two weeks without dialysis, it's not a bad trade off."

When kidneys fail, urination stops. Toxins stay inside, poisoning the system.

Patients enter feeling bloated but at each session about five kilograms of fluid are removed. Fluid on the lungs makes breathing hard and the heart works over time.

Patients have to restrict diet and fluid intakes.

There are three dialysis machines at the clinic and as far as physical space and water purification goes, it's working at maximum capacity.

The three leading causes of kidney disease are diabetics, hypertension or high blood pressure and glomerularnephritis, a condition in which the immune system turns on itself and destroys the kidney.

One patient said he wouldn't wish it on his worst enemy.