When Linda Torrez first began dialysis treatment four years ago, she signed a new lease on life.
Torrez suffers from chronic kidney disease as a result of congestive heart disease stemming from diabetes. It was her son and the promise of grandchildren that prompted her to seek help.
“I was really scared,” said Torrez. “But my son caught in the middle of a drive to Tulsa and just asked me, ‘Don’t you want to see your granddaughter grow up?’ That’s what made me decide to do it.”
According to the National Kidney Foundation, dialysis is a treatment that takes over some of the functions of healthy kidneys. It is needed when a person’s kidneys can no longer take care of the body’s needs.
When kidneys fail, dialysis keeps the body in balance by removing waste, salt and extra water to prevent them from building up in the body. It also keeps a safe level of certain chemicals in the blood, such as potassium, sodium and bicarbonate, and helps control blood pressure.
Dr. James Madison, nephrologist for Tahlequah City Hospital, said the key point is recognizing dialysis is not a treatment of kidney disease, but is rather a replacement of kidney function.
“Dialysis is used to aid kidney function after damage, whether that be chronic failure – which happens gradually over time due to complications from hypertension, diabetes or lupus – or acute kidney injury, which is kidney damage caused by a heart attack, car accident or something like that,” he said. “In either circumstance, kidneys can go into failure, which is where dialysis comes in.”
Madison said in the case of acute injury, once the kidneys heal and other aberrations are corrected, dialysis may no longer be needed. Treatments may be limited to a couple while the patient is in the hospital, or several spanning a number of months.
In the case of chronic kidney disease, once dialysis is established, it does not cease unless a transplant is considered.
“There are several types of treatment available, including hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis and transplant,” said Madison. “The crown jewel of what we’re doing here in Tahlequah is we are the only center in Oklahoma that offers every modality, with the exception of transplants.”
TCH services include home-based, self-directed dialysis; peritoneal home dialysis; in-center dialysis; and a nocturnal shift.
In hemodialysis, an artificial kidney (hemodialyzer) is used to remove waste and extra chemicals and fluid from the blood. To get blood into the artificial kidney, the doctor makes an access into the blood vessels, which is done by minor surgery to the arm or leg.
In peritoneal dialysis, the blood is cleansed inside the body. The doctor, via surgery, places a plastic tube, or catheter, into the patient’s abdomen to make an access. During the treatment, the abdominal area is slowly filled with dialysate through the catheter. The blood stays in the arteries and veins that line the peritoneal cavity. Extra fluid and waste product are drawn from the blood and into the dialysate.
Dr. Anna Miller is a physician at W.W. Hastings Hospital, which also offers dialysis. She said treatments are generally given three to four hours per session, three times a week.
“[With peritoneal dialysis], patients can receive treatment at home for up to 16 hours per day,” Miller said.
Madison said a number of people prefer the nocturnal shift at the TCH center.
“Patients who use the nocturnal shift arrive at the dialysis center around 7-8 p.m. and spend the night,” said Madison. “The environment promotes rest, the lights are dimmed, and we make them as comfortable as possible.”
Torrez receives treatment in the Tahlequah dialysis center at TCH’s Medical Office Building three days per week. She said her quality of life has improved dramatically.
“It’s gotten so much better,” said Torrez. “I’m still in a wheelchair, but I can get up and walk a little. I have a lot less fluid retention. Home dialysis was an option, but I prefer to go to the center. You make a whole new set of friends, and we’re bonded together through dialysis.”
TCH CEO Brian Woodliff said dialysis life expectancy standards for the center are set by Medicaid and the hospital’s regulating body, Network 13.
“Since Madison’s arrival and daily attention to our patients, our life expectancy rate has increased dramatically,” said Woodliff. “One of Madison’s first patients had a life expectancy of 18 months to two years and lived for six years, with a productive end of life.”
Madison has been recognized by the Integris Oklahoma City Multi-Organ Transplant Center, and coordinates transplants in Northeast Oklahoma.
“Local patients would not have had that access before,” said Woodliff. “It’s truly overwhelming when a transplantee tells his story.”
TCH has dialysis centers in Stilwell, Sallisaw, Muskogee and Tahlequah. There’s an additional center in Pryor, which is not owned by TCH.
“One center is unique, in that we partnered with the Cherokee Nation to build a center on tribal land in Sallisaw,” said Woodliff. “It is open not only to tribal citizens, but to all dialysis patients in Sequoyah County. Madison was there to provide the first treatment. It’s wonderful expanded access to care.”
Torrez highly recommends seeking dialysis in the case of chronic disease.
“It makes your life happier, you live longer, you can enjoy your grandbabies and children,” said Torrez. “The thought of treatment shouldn’t get you down. You’re not chained to a single location. I can go to the zoo in OKC with my family, or go to the mall with them, and I couldn’t do that before.”
Torrez is going to visit her daughter in New Jersey this summer, and her dialysis is all taken care of.
“They’ve set up dialysis appointments for me there, and my daughter will take me,” said Torrez. “Traveling is something I’ve never been able to do before. Now that I’m older, I want to travel and I’m able to do that.”
Torrez also appreciates the one-stop shop TCH provides with regard to mutli-symptom care.
“I can see my heart doctor and dialysis doctor right there on one floor, so I can get all the services I need,” said Torrez. “And the nurses at the dialysis center become like family. They give you birthday parties; we celebrate all holidays together. Some of those nurses are like my own children. They are so gentle. They take care of you.”
Madison has a great deal of respect for his patients.
“Dialysis patients come from all walks of life. They’re doctors, lawyers, school teachers, stay-at-home parents, the elderly, and more and more often these days, young people,” said Madison. “I have tremendous empathy, passion and respect for these people, because it’s got to be rough. I want them to know they are brave and courageous people to seek treatment, and caregivers need to recognize that.”
Expanded local services allow freedom of movement, greater access to care
When Linda Torrez first began dialysis treatment four years ago, she signed a new lease on life.
- Local News
Plea deal arranged for ex-fire chief
A former Cherokee County volunteer fire chief has agreed to plead guilty to forgery and embezzlement charges in exchange for a suspended sentence and payment of restitution.
Third Thursday Art Walk
Shoppers will have a chance to visit downtown merchants in the evening during the Tahlequah Main Street Association’s first Third Thursday Art Walk and After Party on Thursday, March 20.
Participating downtown businesses will keep their doors open to offer specials until 8 p.m., and artists will display their work at different locations. Art exhibitors, including the Cherokee Art Center’s Spider Gallery, will stay open late.
Sex offender bill reaches House
By a unanimous 44-0 vote of the Oklahoma Senate, a bill that would make it more difficult for registered sex offenders to change their names has reached the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Senate Bill 1421, authored by Kyle Loveless, Oklahoma City Republican, underwent its first reading in the House on Feb. 27.
Cherokee County Undersheriff Jason Chennault said he did not know of any instances, during his service with the department, of registered sex offenders evading detection with new names for any length of time.
SB 1497 may aid transparency
Government transparency advocates were pleased, and some were surprised, when a proposed bill designed to strengthen Oklahoma’s Open Meetings Act passed the Senate Judicial Committee recently.
Senate Bill 1497, by Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, would allow citizens who are denied access to public meetings to bring civil lawsuits, and if the court rules in favor, to collect attorney’s fees. A continuing resolution has already been filed.
Should the legislation pass into law, it would become effective Nov. 1 this year.
Moulton: Sovereignty is John Ross’ legacy
When describing the Cherokee people, the words “well-educated” and “independent” may come to mind. Those attributes were principles held most dear by John Ross, principal chief of the Cherokees from 1828-1866.
Dr. Gary Moulton, University of Nebraska Thomas C. Sorensen emeritus professor of American history, discussed Ross’ history during a presentation at the Tahlequah Armory Municipal Center Thursday. The event was organized by the history department at Northeastern State University.
The bear facts
A joint project linking two state agencies with researchers at Oklahoma State University is gathering the “bear facts” on a growing population in the northeastern part of the state.
A six-year study on black bears in Cherokee, Adair and Sequoyah counties is being conducted as a precursor to possible establishment of a controlled hunting season in Green Country. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management of Oklahoma State University have partnered for the endeavor.
Drug task force seizes K2 at a Tahlequah house
The District 27 Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force seized between $200 and $300 worth of synthetic drugs during a bust Friday.
The Tahlequah Police Department and the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service were also in on the raid. Members of the task force hope the seizure will aid in an ongoing investigation to find larger suppliers.
“We received information that sales were being made from a residence off Choctaw Street,” said Michael Moore, task force director. “Further investigation led to a state search warrant based on the federal Schedule I list of drugs.”
Citizens can report sight obstructions to city
On Feb. 25-26, the Tahlequah Fire Department responded to motor vehicle accidents at South Muskogee Avenue and South Street, and since that time, a few citizens have expressed concern about the sight lines at the intersection.
A visit to the intersection showed that, for traffic westbound on South, the view south down Muskogee is partially obstructed by shrubbery and a tree that appear to be on private property.
Spears: OSRC should help boost business
In a little over 25 years, Arrowhead Resort owner Jack Spears has grown his business from being the smallest float operator on the Illinois River to the second-largest, and he’d like to continue on that path.
Spears believes tourism is vital to the Tahlequah area. He says if the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission would eliminate a zoning issue along the river, both the agency and his own business would reap the benefits.
Spears recently asked the OSRC to consider doing away with recreational floating zones. Commercial flotation device licenses are granted to operators in each area for a total of 3,900 licenses.
Last-place swine earns top sale bid
Local businessmen drew regional attention through a record-setting bid of $10,000 at the Cherokee County Spring Livestock Show last Saturday, but now they say they don’t want the recognition.
The annual show, which ends with a premium sale featuring top winners, is a fundraiser for local FFA and 4-H participants. Proceeds help cover the animals’ expenses or are used for future projects or showings. Community members, organizations and businesses bid on the livestock, but it is not a purchase. The children showing get to keep their animals.
- More Local News Headlines
- Plea deal arranged for ex-fire chief