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Portable Dialysis Machine Offers Patients More Independence

Patients who must have dialysis to live have an option that allows them greater independence, and, for some, a better quality of life. KSMU's Michele Skalicky has more.

Shannon Summers was just 21 when urine began backing up into his kidneys. The condition, called reflux nephropathy, caused his kidneys to fail. Thus began a regimine of dialysis treatments. But a little over a year ago he started using a NxStage System One portable hemodialysis machine.

"I was kind of a non-traditional college student, and I was getting my degree and I had been told that there's something called home hemodialysis where you can do this at home, it lets you get back to work."

He checked into it and found out he was a good candidate for it. His wife helps him with it.

"My wife is a huge, huge help. Without my wife, I couldn't do this."

According to Debbie Ormsby, nurse manager of Ozarks Dialysis, Primrose Division, the machines are ideal for those who require dialysis but who want to be more independent and take care of themselves. They must have someone available to be with them while they take their treatment. She says the machines are especially ideal for those who live outside of Springfield.

"It's tough if you live in an outlying community and have to come to a centrally located dialysis unit. It's hard on gas, hard on the car, it's hard on people because you come in, have a treatment, you're tired and then you have to go home. If it's an hour or two on the road, you're talking a full day just for one treatment, and that's three times a week."

Summers lives in Stockton and had to drive an hour each way to receive dialysis in Springfield. He was on dialysis for 4 and a half hours, so most of his day was eaten up with medical treatment. Now, he's been able to go back to work--he's a teacher at Bolivar Middle School and says he's regained a sense of purpose.

"I've been able to go back to work, and it's helped my quality of life, helped my self confidence a lot because I actually feel like a contributing member to society now rather than just somebody that sits at home. I would tell people 'well, what do you do for a living? Well, I don't do anything, I sit at home.' That's kind of the way I felt, but now I don't have to feel that way."

Coxhealth has been offering the portable hemodialysis machines for more than two years. Currently, two patients are using them, but Ormsby would like to see that number increase.

"I don't think the community understands the NxStage Machine itself, that it's just a wonderful opportunity for select number of people, but we'd like to have more people try it for sure."

According to Ormsby, being able to take dialysis more than 3 days a week results in things like increased energy, better appetite and less fluid weight gain for patients.

For KSMU News, I'm Michele Skalicky.