The DaVita Beeville Renal Center is celebrating the 10th year of a program that offers freedom to patients undergoing kidney dialysis.

Known as peritoneal dialysis, this method of cleaning toxins from the body can be done at home – instead of hemodialysis,  which cleans the blood and occurs in a dialysis facility. 

“(Peritoneal dialysis) is a gentler cycle than hemodialysis because blood isn’t being taken out of the body,” said Home Program Manager Christie Mayer.

Those who visit DaVita for their dialysis care must do so 13 times per month. But peritoneal dialysis, she said can be done in the patient’s home, once a day and on their schedule. A solution is injected into the patient’s abdominal cavity via a port and catheter near the navel, and Mayer said the solution carries the toxins from the body in the same manner as passing urine.

Prior to beginning their at-home care regimen, patients are trained on how to use their own peritoneal dialysis machine and to administer their own dialysis. Mayer said a nurse is on call 24 hours each day in case patients require assistance. The only time patients need to return to the renal center is up to three times per month for medication and laboratory testing, she said.

“It gives (patients) independence; it empowers them,” Mayer said. 

Beeville Renal Center’s Medical Director Dr. Jack Cortese said that while the peritoneal dialysis machine runs on electricity, it can be operated manually if electricity is not available. 

“As long as you can light a candle, you can do it manually,” he said.

This was a saving grace during February’s winter storm activity that left the region without reliable electricity for most of the week of Feb. 14. Mayer said patients undergoing at-home dialysis care were able to maintain their schedules while those treated at the facility missed almost a week of care, which put them at risk of illness.

The portability of the peritoneal dialysis machine – which Cortese said can fit into the trunk of a car – allows patients to be able to take it along when they travel. Mayer said her father-in-law was able to take his unit along when he took his grandchildren on a camping trip. All that is needed for operation is a clean, dust-free environment.

In addition to its use in the dialysis process, the peritoneal dialysis machine also helps monitor a patient’s condition.

“Information is recorded on a chip. It holds approximately 90 days of treatment records,” Cortese said. “(The patient) hands in the chip when they come for their monthly visit.”

There are at-home patients who require additional monitoring.

“Some patients on home care have remote monitoring,” said Clinical Coordinator Melinda Fox. “When they get on the scale or take their blood pressure, the information is sent here via WiFi through an iPad. If something is wrong, it can send us an alert to our computers, and we can follow up.”

Of the 70 patients at the Beeville Renal Center, eight currently get their dialysis treatments at home. Not only is this six more at-home patients than last year, Mayer said, but this is an all-time record for the facility.

A patient who is in training to perform her own peritoneal is Alisha Yogi of Beeville.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s definitely better than hemo. Doing PD gives me my life back.”

Yogi began her current round of dialysis treatments in February and she was having to spend at least five hours, three times each week to receive care at the center. Yogi is confident that peritoneal dialysis will improve her condition enough that she can return to teaching first grade in the Beeville Independent School District. During a previous round of at-home care, Yogi said she was able to finish her education.

Now Yogi said she is working with DaVita’s transplant team to find a live donor – usually a family member or a friend. Fox said, “A live donor is quicker because that’s someone willing to give a kidney to a patient.”

When Yogi undergoes surgery to receive her new kidney, she hopes that the third time is the charm. Twice already she has received donated kidneys, but her body rejected both.

“My kidney right now is still functioning but not well enough to clean my blood the way it needs to be cleaned,” Yogi said.

Cortese said anyone who might like to donate a kidney to Yogi can call him at the DaVita Beeville Renal Center at 1-800-424-6589.

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