More Alberta Renal Patients to Benefit from Nocturnal Home Hemodialysis
Story by Gregory Kennedy, photo by Pat Marston
For Gail McElwain, the scariest thing was giving herself a needle.
"And it wasn't a skinny one, either," says the 63-year-old retiree of her initial fears in learning nocturnal home hemodialysis.
Just like McElwain, more end-stage kidney-disease patients will soon enjoy improved health, more personal freedom and a higher quality of life thanks to an expansion of Alberta Health Services' nocturnal home hemodialysis program in the Edmonton area.Home hemodialysis patient Gail McElwain gives big thanks to Dr. Robert Pauly and the Northern Alberta Renal Program (NARP) for giving her a wonderful, active quality of life.
The purchase of 15 new machines, worth $390,000, will allow 15 more patients to join more than 100 Albertans who already benefit from this treatment option. Hemodialysis helps failing kidneys filter metabolic toxins and excess fluid from blood.
Patient Gail McElwain at home with hemodialysis machine is part of the Northern Alberta Renal Program.
"The beneficial effects of home hemodialysis have become more apparent over the years," says Dr. Robert Pauly, a kidney specialist with the Northern Alberta Renal Program (NARP). "It's making the transition from what was fringe therapy, at first, to what we now view as mainstream therapy for many patients."
Conventional hemodialysis requires patients to spend four hours, three times a week, usually on the renal unit of a hospital.
Feeling Better Happens Overnight
With nocturnal home hemodialysis, patients hook themselves up to the equipment as they retire for the night, five or six nights a week. This slower, gentler form of dialysis, done over six to nine hours nightly, is easier on the body than the faster, daytime treatments. The machine is quiet enough so patients can enjoy a normal sleep.
"Here's an opportunity to get your therapy during downtime while you are sleeping rather than getting treatment according to someone else's schedule," says Pauly.
Nocturnal home hemodialysis offers survival rates similar to kidney-transplant recipients, whose new kidneys routinely last 10 to 12 years or longer before a fresh transplant or more dialysis becomes necessary. By comparison, fewer than 40 per cent of patients on conventional hemodialysis survive for five years.
McElwain first went on conventional, and later nocturnal home hemodialysis, after her kidney transplant failed a few years ago.
"The difference is like day and night," says McElwain, comparing conventional and nocturnal home hemodialysis. "I have more independence. I have more energy to participate in life. I still can't believe how much my appetite has improved. I go to the gym four or five times a week. I go for walks down by the river. Everything is good."
Patients who opt for nocturnal home hemodialysis must complete a six-week training program and once they begin home treatments, around-the-clock, on-call help is available if questions arise.
The hemodialysis machine, supplies and miscellaneous equipment are provided to patients free of charge by the Northern Alberta Renal Program, which serves Edmonton as well as northern communities in the province, Arctic territories and northeastern British Columbia.
The University Hospital Foundation is raising funds for the new hemodialysis machines.