Looking into the at-home option of dialysisAs Judy Christianson’s kidney function started declining with age, she knew she needed to find a solution.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
As Judy Christianson’s kidney function started declining with age, she knew she needed to find a solution.
After taking an antibiotic for another health problem, an allergic reaction worsened her kidneys quicker.
“The function went rock bottom then,” she said.
But, Christianson added, she wasn’t a good candidate for a kidney transplant.
“The alternative to that is dialysis in some form or another,” she explained.
Dialysis is a process that filters a person’s blood to rid the body of harmful wastes, extra salt and unnecessary water.
About a year and a half ago Christianson started treatment at DaVita, a dialysis provider with locations throughout the country including in Red Wing. Three days a week for about four hours each day, she would sit at DaVita while hooked up to a dialysis machine.
Although she said the staff and environment at the center were fantastic, not everything about the appointments was favorable.
“After treatment I was just exhausted. It was very frustrating,” Christianson said. “So I started asking questions about alternatives.”
That’s when doctors told her about the possibility of peritoneal dialysis, which is done in the comfort of a patient’s home.
“There are so many people that have no idea that this is an option,” said Beth Clemens, facility administrator for DaVita’s Red Wing and Cottage Grove, Minn., locations.
Christianson admits it was a big leap going from being surrounded by trained staff to doing things alone or with the help of family members. Still, the decision to switch resulted in a lot of positives — as it can with many people.
“First of all you’re not driving back and forth, especially in the winter in Minnesota. (Patients) don’t feel as dragged out afterwards. You’re much more responsible for your own health care,” nephrologist David Dahl from the Hennepin County Medical Center said, listing benefits.
Christianson now gets to experience all of those perks. Her dialysis is done during the night while she sleeps. Rather than filtering her blood through an artificial kidney as in-center dialysis does, peritoneal dialysis filters her blood through her own peritoneal membrane, a thin lining in her abdomen.
The process uses dialysate, a sterile solution that closely resembles normal body fluid, whereas in-center dialysis simply uses a person’s blood.
“It’s two totally different things,” Christianson’s daughter Emily said. “It’s pulling the fluids out of different tissues.”
Before Christianson left DaVita to start dialysis treatments at home, the center made sure she was well-versed in the procedure.
“They’re so properly trained,” Clemens said of patients who opt to start peritoneal dialysis. “We have to make sure that they’re signed off on their skills checklist (before they can start).”
If problems ever arise, Clemens added, DaVita has nurses on call 24/7 that can assist in a patient’s home.
Christianson is well taken care of by her own team of “nurses” — her daughters.
“I have two wonderful helpers here at home,” she said.
They set up all of the equipment Christianson needs to be able to hook up to her dialysis machine every night. Then, when it’s time for bed, she connects to the machine using a peritoneal catheter.
While Christianson is sleeping, dialysate flows through the catheter, across her peritoneal membrane and into her peritoneal cavity.
The solution sits while toxins cross over the membrane and are eventually drained out of the body at the end of a cycle. Christianson typically undergoes five cycles throughout a single night.
“It sounds like a long time but you’re sleeping through it,” she said of the process. “It’s painless, it’s gentle and it’s very flexible in when you can do it.”
“It’s amazing to me whoever thought of this,” Emily added.
Ultimately, Christianson said she’s never discovered any negatives about switching to peritoneal dialysis. Still, she doesn’t want people to assume everything will be perfect.
“Peritoneal dialysis has really been wonderful as far as I’m concerned, but it may not be the right thing for everyone so they really need to consult with their physicians,” Christianson said.