Home dialysis machine gives back kidney patients’ lives

A relatively new treatment is helping kidney patients on dialysis live a more normal life thanks to a machine that lets them do dialysis at home on their own time.

Denise Atkinson gets her monthly checkup at the Davita Northwest Dialysis Center in Windsor Mill. At 54, she’s been on dialysis for nearly four years because of polysystic kidney disease.

“I will tell you, the year before I got on dialysis, I (felt like I) was walking in sand all the time,” she said. “When my husband would want to go to Home Depot, I would sit in the garden section and wait for him to finish shopping because I couldn’t walk the store.”

Atkinson doesn’t have to go to the dialysis center for her treatments. Instead, she uses the NX Stage System One hemodialysis machine at home, an option that’s becoming more popular with kidney patients because it allows them much more freedom than having to come into the dialysis center several times a week.

“They dialyze themselves at home at their own convenience. They can travel with the machine. They can dialyze in the morning, evening or at night. They have their freedom back again,” said dialysis nurse Stephanie Klara.

The only requirements for the home hemodialysis are keeping a record of your vital signs and having a partner at home in case of an emergency. The patient and partner — in Atkinson’s case, her husband — go through four to six weeks of training on how to hook themselves up and use the machine before taking it home.

Nurses said it helps patients feel better than regular dialysis.

“It’s more of a gentler dialysis. It sort of mimics what their kidneys do, and they get a little bit taken off every single day. They rarely cramp. They rarely get nauseous,” Klara said.

It also allows Atkinson to continue working full time since she can do the treatments at night. She said she does them five days a week on her own time.

“I feel great. There are days that you kind of drag, but most of the time, I feel pretty good,” she said.