Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — People with kidney failure usually go to a center to get dialysis. But what if you could do it yourself?
“At home you’re flexible to do it whenever you want. Morning, afternoon, or evening,” says Tom Mihum of Jeanette.
When Mihun’s kidneys failed because of diabetes, he went to a center three times a week for a year. But for the past two years, he’s done his dialysis at home. This has allowed him to work, spend time with his wife, and rest during the four hours it takes without the distractions of a busy dialysis center.
Dialysis is like a kidney outside the body – taking care of wastes in the blood stream, and regulating fluid, balance and body chemistry. This has to be done on a regular basis and going without it is fatal.
At home, his wife sets everything up. It takes 30 to 45 minutes, depending on whether the machine needs to be bleached beforehand – a cleaning procedure that has to be done on a regular basis.
It took her two months to learn. She watched someone with experience, took written exams and she was supervised at first.
“The first time that no one is here, that was a little nerve racking,” says Cindy Mihun.
Of course, you have to be prepared for anything.
“If the lights go out, we have lanterns here. There’s a crank here if the power goes out, and you crank the blood back into him. So, you’re prepared for all that stuff, and hope it doesn’t happen. All the instances have happened,” Cindy says.
They thought about setting up in the master bedroom, so Mihun could just go to sleep afterwards, but they set up in the basement. That’s where the supplies are stored – too heavy to carry upstairs.
“If there are supplies to be carried, I want to make sure they can do that. I don’t want that to be an issue for them,” says Susie Rodgers of Fresenius Dialysis.
Supplies can run $900 a month; the unit rental is $2000 a month. Luckily, it’s all covered by insurance.
To do home dialysis, you would need a partner and the appropriate utilities.
“We always go into the home, and make sure of water, electricity, and our company will help get the house ready in that sense,” says Rodgers. “Well water is an issue. You don’t want to run out of water. Usually everything is fine.”
She has had to turn someone down, even after starting the training process, because he just couldn’t get the sequence down.
“I had tears that day. I felt bad for him,” she says. “A lot of people on dialysis have other issues, not just renal failure.”
In her experience, only one or two people for every 60 on dialysis do it at home, even though the option has been available for the past two decades.
For those who can do it – the convenience and flexibility make it all worthwhile.
“It makes them happier, and I call that being healthier,” says Rodgers.
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