Thursday, September 13, 2012

Group pushing for kidney disease awareness

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Wanting more autonomy, some local medical workers split off last year from the National Kidney Foundation and formed an independent group based in Hopkinsville.
It let them continue providing services for renal failure patients — medications for poor patients, rides to dialysis appointments — but with fewer bureaucratic complications, said Sarah Rowland, the group’s treasurer.
The group is using its newfound freedom to create an annual picnic for dialysis patients and staff. This year’s picnic, scheduled for Sept. 16 at the A.W. Watts Senior Center, will be the second.

“It’s a good chance for patients to be with other patients from other clinics,” Rowland said.
Because renal failure can debilitate patients, it helps to build a support network, she said. And the picnic lets them spend time with medical staff in an atmosphere more pleasant than the clinic.
Rowland works at the DaVita Dialysis clinic on Burley Avenue. Her husband, Daniel Rowland, has a central role in planning the picnic.
Last year the Western Kentucky Kidney Association only invited patients and staff from the two dialysis clinics in Hopkinsville. The second is a DaVita office on South Virginia Street. They cooked hamburgers and hotdogs, gave out door prizes and had activities for kids, Daniel Rowland said.
Patients asked them to make it an annual tradition, Sarah Rowland said. This year they invited two clinics from Madisonville, two from Clarksville and one from Cadiz. As of Wednesday morning, more than 200 people had registered to attend, she said.
A patient will perform ventriloquism. Another will bring a horse and give pony rides.
The Rowlands hope this will raise awareness about renal failure — especially for patients’ family members. Many of these family members stand high risks of contracting kidney diseases, but they don’t realize it, nor do they understand what their loved ones endure at dialysis clinics, Sarah Rowland said.
The kidneys filter waste and excess fluid from the blood so they can exit the body via urine, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. When kidneys fail, wastes, electrolytes and excess fluid can enter the bloodstream, and this can cause a long list of nasty symptoms including vomiting, sleep problems, mental decline and high blood pressure.
Diabetes and hypertension are the leading causes, Sarah Rowland said.
Doctors use two basic dialysis methods to clean patients’ bloodstreams, the National Kidney Foundation reports. In one method, the patient has an artery joined to a vein underneath the skin, or a tube inserted into a vein, and hooked up to an artificial kidney. In the other, the patient has a tube surgically installed in the abdomen to clean the blood internally.
Dialysis appointments often take four hours, and patients usually need three every week, Sarah Rowland said.
“And so they definitely have to have support,” she said.
The Western Kentucky Kidney Association gets funding from the United Way, the Pioneers and families of deceased patients. It has patients in Christian, Trigg and Caldwell counties, Sarah Rowland said. Its governing board wants to expand its reach.
The board previously had to get all its decisions approved by the National Kidney Foundation. Its independence simplifies and speeds up its operations, she said.
Anyone who suffers from kidney failure can take advantage of its services, even if the person doesn’t yet receive dialysis. The foundation provides medications, gas for appointments and help with utility bills, Sarah Rowland said.

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