By JEFF MEYERS
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Harry Stafford has been undergoing regular dialysis treatments at the H.K. Freedman Renal Center for the past three years, but that will soon change.
Stafford, who suffered kidney failure at age 44 and requires three visits a week to the Renal Center to survive, will soon be performing his own dialysis in the comfort of his home, thanks to a procedure that is being offered locally for the first time.
“It’s a very long day,” Stafford said of his trips to the Renal Center on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week. “I drop the kids off at school, come to the center for up to four hours or more.
“This new opportunity is going to free up a lot of my time.”
The procedure is called home hemodialysis, a technique that serves the same function as the regular clinic process but offers many advantages for those who can transition from the supervision offered at a clinic to an independent home setting.
“There are people in the area who have been doing this (dialysis at home), but now we are able to offer the training here in Plattsburgh,” said Marianne Sorrell, a training nurse for the home hemodialysis program at the Renal Center.
Prior to the current training program, kidney-dialysis patients had to travel to Ogdensburg, Syracuse or Burlington, she explained.
“Patients are typically here (at the Renal Center for dialysis) four to six hours a day, three times a week,” Sorrell said. “They can build up a lot of stress being away from home all that time, and there are swings from not feeling well one day to feeling good the next.”
Stafford will actually be undergoing home hemodialysis six out of seven days per week, but he plans to sit at the machine for a couple of hours each evening while watching TV or just enjoying time with his family.
“From the patient’s perspective, there is a much improved quality of life,” said Dr. Craig Hurwitz, a Plattsburgh nephrologist. “But there is also a benefit to more dialysis (on a daily basis). Every time you try to get closer to what the real organ does, you’re going to have improvements.”
A typical dialysis session at the center will remove about three pounds of fluid from the patient, Hurwitz noted. Performing home hemodialysis on a daily basis removes about a pound of fluid in contrast.
“Home dialysis is not for everyone,” he added. “Everybody who comes for dialysis gets a choice (for which kind of dialysis the patient may prefer). There is a place for each form of dialysis.”
Peritoneal dialysis is also a home treatment that kidney patients have been using for decades. It’s a procedure that requires a catheter to be placed on a patient’s belly.
Fluid is placed in the patient’s abdomen during each treatment, and the fluid is then filtered by the peritoneal membrane inside the abdomen, replacing the function of the kidneys.
Filtered fluid is removed from the body and replaced by clean fluid throughout the procedure, which is often done during the night while a patient sleeps.
Hemodialysis involves pumping blood from the body through filters to remove impurities before returning to the body.
Stafford will complete three weeks of training at the Renal Center and will then begin home hemodialysis in earnest. He will also have to report to the clinic on a monthly basis to make sure everything is going smoothly.
The equipment, including the Nx Stage One filtering system, and training is covered by insurance, but the freedom it offers is priceless.
“We were not able to do much as a family,” said his wife, Daisy Stafford, who was also at the training session so she can assist in his treatments at home. “This will open so many opportunities for him.”
“Frees me up to go camping for a week,” he added, noting that he can bring the equipment on vacations, as long as electricity is available to operate the filter.
He will also have the responsibility to monitor his blood pressure and other vitals on a regular basis, a requirement that will also improve his overall health.
“I feel a lot better already,” he said during his second week of training. “I always felt wiped out (following treatments in the clinic). Now I have a lot more energy (at the end of the daily treatment).”
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