Thanks to donor support, hemodialysis patients have more options to get treatment at home

Taryn Gantar was surprised to hear what the doctor was telling her.

“He told me my kidneys were failing and I had to start dialysis treatments. I went straight into denial. There was no way he could be right, even though I felt really awful.” That was 20 years ago, when Gantar was 23, and the mother of a one-year-old daughter.

Dialysis patient Taryn Gantar

 

“Dialysis is hard but without this lifesaving treatment, I would not be here today.”

Gantar is still on dialysis today. She is one of over 1,500 people living with end-stage kidney disease who receive treatment through Alberta Kidney Care – North, currently headquartered at the University of Alberta Hospital but with plans to relocate one of the units away from the acute-care hospital setting.

Patients receiving hemodialysis in-hospital are put on a regular schedule of four hours per day, three days per week, plus additional time, and energy, traveling to and from the hospital, looking for parking, and even walking back and forth from the dialysis unit. It may not sound like a big deal, but it is. “You feel tired after dialysis,” says Gantar. “The last thing you want to do is walk back to your car and drive home or spend hours on a DATS bus.”

Ten years ago, Gantar decided to try dialyzing at home, a decision that she credits for turning her life around.

 

“Home hemodialysis has given me my life back. It’s convenient. It’s empowering.”

 

“You have the ability to dialyze more often, when you want and how you want in the comfort of your own home. And you feel so much better. You can do things that other people do. I work full-time. I volunteer for the Kidney Foundation and Alberta Health Services. I feel well enough to spend quality time with my friends and family. I have my life back.”

Dialyzing at home is also comfortable and convenient – especially during COVID-19. “Being able to have patients dialyze at home is enormously desirable in the setting of a global pandemic,” says Dr. Robert Pauly, Home Hemodialysis Medical Director, Alberta Kidney Care – North. “As a result of COVID-19, many health-care resources have been scaled back or redeployed toward essential services; one notable exception has been training for home therapies. This shows the inherent value our system has placed on continuing to encourage people to receive their therapy in a setting that is much better for them.”

As the director of one of the largest home hemodialysis programs the world, Dr. Pauly credits community support for providing critical funding needed to purchase additional home dialysis machines.

In 2012, Edmonton philanthropists Matt and Betty-Jean Baldwin made a $1 million donation to the University Hospital Foundation. The University Hospital Foundation matched their gift with a $1 million gift of its own, to fund the purchase of 45 additional home hemodialysis machines for the University of Alberta Hospital. With this increase, the program expanded to 100 machines.

“The growth that we’ve had in our program is a direct result of collaboration between donors to the University Hospital Foundation, Alberta Health Services, and a dedicated multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, biomedical technologists, social workers and dietitians,” says Dr. Pauly. “Together, we can help our patients get home and stay at home.”

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