Doing Dialysis in Picton: A Personal Testimonial

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Peter Sheridan – Milford

A few months ago, several dialysis chairs became available in Picton. That news was welcomed by my wife and I and by other patients and families who no longer needed to drive six or more hours weekly from the County to Kingston General Hospital (KGH) three times a week for dialysis. There are others who, as yet, are not so fortunate.

To put it in perspective, the MacSteven Dialysis Clinic located in the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital welcome eleven patients for four hours of dialysis on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings since 2002 and another eleven patients for four hours in the afternoon, year round. It is open for 12 hours, from seven to seven, on each of the above mentioned days. This includes preparation, patient care, clean up, report writing and many other professional activities by the staff.

Picton is one of several satellite clinics of KGH. There are others, for example, at Perth and Smith Falls and at Bancroft. Three nurses are on duty here at any one time, with the much appreciated assistance of other equally kind and highly knowledgeable support staff in their fields of expertise. The PEC Memorial Hospital Auxiliary volunteers who perform numerous functions are greatly appreciated as well. Indeed, the experience of dialysis has afforded me the opportunity to get to know and understand many new people…both caregivers and fellow patients…whom I otherwise would never have met.

From where I sit immobilized for four hours, while hooked up by catheter to a dialyzer and a blood pressure cuff, I am most appreciative for being covered with a heated blanket or donated handmade quilt, and for the water, ice chips, ginger ale or hot tea and toasted English muffins. We patients are spoiled silly, and I feel nothing but deep gratitude.

Dialysis itself permits us to extend our lives, of which we are aware and thankful every day. I am most thankful for our nurses’ lifesaving compassionate professionalism and skilled team work especially in the event of crisis, such as when blood pressure tanks or spikes, or when muscle spasms set in.

In addition to these caregivers, there are occasional nephrologists and dietician visits which review and fine tune our medical orders and nutritional advice according to the evolving needs of each patient.

As a patient, I could not help but become quickly aware of the cost. The first thing that struck me was the high capital cost of the complex, computerized dialysis machines that keep kidney-failure patients alive. I think of them as specialized electronic washing machines with added filters and computer monitor screens and other modifications. They use a lot of water, electricity, tubing, filters and other replaceable materials. The materials help clean toxins like creatinine and uric acid in the blood. They also help rebalance electrolytes and hormones as needed by each individual patient. Most importantly, they help to reduce fluid buildup and regulate blood pressure. There’s surely much more accurate information on Google, Wikipedia or elsewhere.

As well, there are many behind the scenes costs, such as leasing arrangements between institutions, salaries of various professionals and unseen technicians who transport and fix machines when they break down, and other costs such as hardware, software, supplies and diverse service and assets that I can’t even imagine.

How do I occupy my time during dialysis? Sometimes I catch forty winks! At other times I read a journal article on a Giller prize publication from our great library, or attempt to do a crossword puzzle or Sudoku. Mostly through headphones, I listen to the terrific County FM 99.3 radio station. Occasionally I watch the History or Discovery channel on the overhead TV. Then there are times when I meditate on life and the many lessons of my disease.

I have a sense of profound gratitude for the highest level of professional care at my service. And I know both the effort and expense required, and I’m aware that many patients in other countries do not have such easy access to dialysis, if at all.

I am deeply thankful for dialysis in this country, this province and right here at PECMH.