Your kidneys are as important as your heart and lungs. Some people have kidneys that don’t work well. They need dialysis treatments to remove waste products from their blood. Our CIUSSS offers a Kidney Health Program that provides care and services for more than 250 patients at the St. Mary’s Hospital Centre and the Lakeshore General Hospital. Some of those patients have acute kidney failure and receive treatment until they recover. But those patients whose condition is chronic require several treatments each week to ensure their survival. Unless they get a transplant.
A team of about 30 people work at the dialysis centres, and their days run like clockwork. At 6:30 a.m., technicians and attendants clean and prepare the dialyzers that are then programmed by specialized nurses so that they are ready to begin the first treatments for users at 7:00 a.m. “The programming varies from one patient to another. It depends on their condition. It is, in a way, the art of dialysis. Our goal is to make each treatment as effective as possible, to get rid of the waste products and excess water that have built up in the blood,” explains Melissa Macintyre, manager of the Kidney Health Program. “Each nurse is responsible for three patients at a time. They do an assessment of each one before they are connected to the device. On average, treatments last four hours, and we see three groups of patients each day. They require precise logistics and an exceptional attention to detail,” she adds.
The side effects during treatment vary a lot from one person to another. Some people come in with their laptop and get work done, which others are sometimes feeling weaker and tired at the end of their treatment. That said, the team does everything they can to make these visits as comfortable as possible. “We see these people for long periods of time, often for years, and we know them all very well, which makes the process easier. However, being their confidants and caregivers without being affected by their concerns or issues can be challenging for the staff,” says Ms. Macintyre.
The Kidney Health Program also provides peritoneal dialysis to eligible patients. It is a treatment that they can do at home on their own after having a permanent catheter inserted. Specialized nurses teach them the technique, they receive the consumable materials needed for the treatment free of charge, and they are seen by a nephrologist and their care team each month or as needed. This treatment takes less time and allows for much more independence. Ms. Ushma Desai, who has been a patient with the program since 2020, confirms it. “What I had read on the Internet about dialysis treatments really frightened me. But after the training I received at St. Mary’s, I realized that doing my own dialysis is really very simple. And I know that I can always count on Mary Lou or Michelle, the nurses at the clinic.” In short, the Kidney Health Program at our CIUSSS is a real gem and we should be very proud of it!