Kidney dialysis helps patients by cleaning their blood
Dan Nichols relaxes in a recliner, a blanket tucked up to his chin, a tall rectangular box of a machine next to him softly whooshing every few seconds as it cleans his blood.
The 80-year-old Prescott resident has spent three days a week for the past five years hooked up to a hemodialysis unit. This one is a $27,000 Fresenius 2008K at the Diversified Specialty Institute - better known as DSI - at 980 Willow Creek Road, one of Prescott's outpatient dialysis treatment centers.
Nichols has end-stage renal disease. He is not a candidate for a transplant, so for the rest of his life, he will need dialysis.
"Some people have been on it for 20 years," Nichols says.
The National Kidney Foundation identifies two types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.
Nichols uses hemodialysis. In this type of dialysis, an artificial kidney - in this case the Fresenius 2008K - removes waste and extra chemicals and fluid from Nichols' body.
Each treatment takes about three hours, Nichols says, but the amount of time varies with the individual.
When Nichols first began dialysis, doctors joined an artery to a vein under the skin in his left forearm to make a fistula, a large entrance into his blood vessels, that looks like a swollen, somewhat bruised vein sticking up from his skin. "It's easier to stick and you get more blood flow out of it," said Brandon Franklin, a certified hemodialysis technician at DSI.
Dialysis technicians insert two needles into the fistula. One is red and pulls the blood out of Nichols' body so it can go through the blood pump in the dialysis machine. The other needle is blue and it returns the blood after the machine cleans it.
Asked if it hurts when the needles are inserted, Nichols said, "Oh, yeah."
But once they are in, the pain stops, he said.
Dialysis keeps a body in balance by removing waste, salt and extra water so they do not build up in the body. It also keeps chemicals like potassium, sodium and bicarbonate at safe levels in the body while controlling blood pressure.
While dialysis is underway, Nichols gets a blood thinner to keep the blood from clotting - which it naturally wants to do. He also gets his blood pressure checked every half hour.
Nichols says he feels well taken care of at DSI. "These people know what they're doing," he said.
Dialysis has been available since the mid 1940s, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Regular dialysis treatments began in 1960. Dialysis is now a standard treatment around the world.
The federal government pays 80 percent of all dialysis costs for most patients. Private health insurance or state medical aid also help with the costs.
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