Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

February 21, 2014

Dialysis offers many patients longevity

Expanded local services allow freedom of movement, greater access to care

TAHLEQUAH — 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.”


Text Only
Local News
  • ts-Tax-free-main.jpg Shopper's delight

    Tax-free weekend coming up Aug. 1-3, just in time for back-to-school savings

    Attention, shoppers: Oklahoma’s Tax-Free Weekend is coming up, beginning at 12:01 a.m., Friday, Aug. 1.

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • ballard-amanda.jpg Woman pleads no contest to molestation

    A Tahlequah woman accused of having more than 20 sexual encounters with a 13-year-old boy has pleaded no contest in exchange for a 15-year prison sentence, though 10 years have been suspended.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • svw-arch-society.jpg Archaeologist: Spiro Mounds may have been ancient music haven

    People gathered from across the country at the “center of the universe,” bringing with them different styles of music and instruments, each thought to have its own power and importance.
    This could be the description of a modern music festival, but to Jim Rees, it is a picture of the Spiro Mounds 1,000 years before Columbus came to the Americas.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Two headed for trial for conspiracy to kill judge and others

    Two of the four people accused of conspiring to kill a Cherokee County judge and several other targets were bound over for trial Friday following a preliminary hearing in Tahlequah.

    July 28, 2014

  • Woman accused in embezzlement sought for arrest

    Court officials have issued a bench warrant for a woman who previously pleaded to embezzling more than $40,000 while she worked for Tahlequah attorney Park Medearis.

    July 28, 2014

  • CN, UKB battle over trust land application

    Two Tahlequah-based tribes presented oral arguments Friday in a protracted fight over a land-in-trust application.

    Over the course of five hours, attorneys for the Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Nation Entertainment and the Department of the Interior made their cases before Northern District Judge Gregory Frizzell in a hearing that was originally scheduled for February.


    July 25, 2014

  • ts-NSU-Main-1-a.jpg No NSU pool, for now

    NSU experiencing delays in fitness center construction

    Earlier this month, Northeastern State University announced it is experiencing delays in the renovation of its fitness center and pool.
    The facility was officially shuttered Sept. 17, 2012, and at the time, the projected completion date for renovation was this fall.

    July 25, 2014 3 Photos

  • jn-Suspect-1.jpg Officials: Images of suspects may help nab church burglars

    Cherokee County investigators hope surveillance footage captured around the Crescent Valley Baptist Church in Woodall helps lead to the suspects accused of breaking into the complex and setting fire to one building this week.
    According to Undersheriff Jason Chennault, cameras captured footage of two suspects on bicycles early Tuesday morning, July 22.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • svw-movie-night.jpg Local library hosts family movie night

    Nova Foreman and her two daughters were about to leave the Tahlequah Public Library Thursday, when they saw the Family Movie Night flyer.
    The three decided to stay and enjoy a movie they had not yet seen at the free, theater-like event.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • svw-Keys.jpg Grant to fund stepped-up Keys PE program

    Kair Ridenhour’s new office is filled with pedometers.
    Ridenhour officially started his new position as assistant elementary principal at Keys Public Schools on July 1.
    But his other role at the school – that of physical education project coordinator – prompted the influx of pedometers.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo


Do you believe school administrators and college presidents in Oklahoma are paid too much?

Strongly agree.
Somewhat agree.
Somewhat disagree.
Strongly disagree.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow