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Lakeshore Light Opera helps take hassle out of dialysis

  • Tom Kirkpatrick, left, Marian Siminski (who is Lakeshore Light Opera's musical director), and Kathryn and John Woodard.
    Tom Kirkpatrick, left, Marian Siminski (who is Lakeshore Light Opera's musical director), and Kathryn and John Woodard.
    Photo credit: Courtesy Philip Magder

The Lakeshore Light Opera has made it a whole lot easier for West Islanders with severe chronic kidney disease to get the training they need to have dialysis treatments at home.

Last week, the group’s president, Robert Schaap, presented the Lakeshore General Hospital Foundation with a $10,000 cheque. The money will be used to outfit a training room at the hospital for patients who want to do dialysis in the comfort of their own homes.

Between March 2011 and April 2012, 14,200 patients received dialysis at the hospital.

Home dialysis is called peritoneal dialysis, PD for short, and it can change a patient’s life.

Lakeshore Light Opera member John Woodard knows firsthand.

Woodard has been fighting kidney disease for five years. Late in 2011, his kidney problems escalated and the Lakeshore General’s nephrology department recommended PD, but the hospital had no training facility, so he was sent to the Jewish General Hospital.

“The week I was sent to the Jewish General Hospital, five other patients from the Lakeshore General Hospital were also referred there, including a patient from Hudson. That’s a long trip in the dead of winter,” Woodard said. “PD is an amazing program. So it’s terrific that (the training) will now be easily available to West Islanders.”

If a patient decides to go the PD route, a catheter is surgically inserted into the abdomen. The patient must learn how to safely and then drains fluid from the abdomen four times a day or up to seven times a night. Dialysis removes toxins from the body. Each session takes 45 minutes.

The LGH program should be up and running in two months. Patients will receive intensive, one-on-one training sessions over four weeks and return to the hospital every six weeks for blood tests to make sure the dialysis is working.

“The nurse will check for infection around the catheter and review the patient’s technique,” said Linda Sullivan, the nurse director of the nephrology and oncology department at the Lakeshore General. “We’re human. People forget things.”

“The advantage of PD is that the patient can maintain a level of independence,” Sullivan said. “But there are things to learn. There must be dedicated room in the home for the dialysis. Windows must be shut and doors closed and everything must be sterile.”

Keeping the dialysis environment sterile is crucial, but that doesn’t mean the patient is tied to the house.

“PD allows us to travel,” Woo-day around the four dialysis sessions, but you have more flexibility … than you do having to go to the hospital.”

Sullivan said that it sometimes takes some coaxing, but when a patient agrees to try PD, it’s a hit.

“I’ve heard of truck drivers who do it while they are working,” she said. “They just pull over and set things up and 45 minutes later, it’s done.

“We had a patient who is a businessman. He was coming to the hospital for dialysis, but we finally convinced him to go to the (JGH) for PD training. He came to see us after and thanked us. He said he got his life back.

The Lakeshore Light Opera has been donating proceeds from performances to the Lakeshore General Hospital Foundation for 25 years. The money helps defray costs not covered by the hospital’s budget or provincial grants.

Woodard has been a member of the theatrical troupe for 35 years and wife Kathryn for 40 years.

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