MAKING THE PERFECT TEAM: WORKING WITH YOUR DIALYSIS TECHNICIAN

I just signed up for an October online webinar over the weekend, which reminded me at the same time to update my Health Care Team members. The webinar is titled: Making the Perfect Team: Working with Your Dialysis Technician. It is being presented by the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) in conjunction with the organization’s HealthLine initiative, and in partnership with National Association of Nephrology Technicians/Technologists (NANT).

The AAKP HealthLine is a webinar-based program (with the conference call option still available for those without a computer) that conveniently educates patients and their family members on a variety of important health care topics from the comfort of their home or office. HealthLine addresses many issues patients with kidney disease face, such as: diet/nutrition; mention/social/emotional health; medication management; renal replacement treatment options; co-morbid conditions kidney patients cope with such as hyperparathyroidism, bone disease, anemia, heart disease, and much more.

All webinar programs are one-hour long, and they feature two to three expert speakers. All HealthLine programs are recorded and archived on the AAKP website (www.aakp.org) for continued patient education. More than 5,000 individuals have participated in a HealthLine webinar.

The October webinar will be “aired” on Tuesday, October 9, from 1-2 p.m. (EST), featuring the important role of the dialysis technician and the special relationship they have with their patients. The AAKP HealthLine is an interactive program, with time provided at the end of each webinar for a brief question-and-answer session.

Most dialysis patients, like me, can vouch for the need to establish a good relationship with their technician, the person most likely to spend the most time during the duration of the treatment. In my case, the treatment runs 3¼ hours, not counting the 10-15 minutes of preparation and a similar amount of time to disconnect from the machine that serves to remove excess fluid and to cleanse the bloodstream while circulating the patient’s blood. Most all patients receive treatments three times each week on a year-long basis.

At my in-clinic center (Fresenius Southport) on the south side of Indianapolis, the treatments run on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday routine, where seven technicians tend to a double shift of patients in up to 24 recliner chairs. I am generally “on the clock” by 6 every treatment morning, and I usually leave the clinic by no later than 9:45. Each technician likely will have three to four patients at a time to look after.

Most patients have what is called a fistula that has been placed surgically in the forearm or upper arm location. The fistula provides an access for hooking up the patient to the dialysis machine, with technicians trained on how to “stick” two needles in the arm – one needle pulling the blood into the machine and the other needle returning the blood back into the arm. Over the course of a single treatment, the process will circulate 2½ to 3 times a patient’s bloodstream – about 10-11 pints of blood for a man and 9-10 pints for a woman.

Since transferring to the Fresenius center last February, I have had all seven technicians “stick” me, some more frequently than others. Occasionally, the same technician might tend to me on back-to-back treatments. On some weeks, I may have a different technician each day. What I have noticed is that I seem to have established a relationship, mostly good, with each of the seven technicians. All seven are listed on my Health Care Team.

For the record, my complete Health Care Team is listed below:

BERNIE GILMER ‘HEALTH CARE TEAM’

PATIENT:                       Bernie Gilmer

PRIMARY PHYSICIAN: Dr. Xiangfeng Zhu

CARDIOLOGIST:            Dr. DeoVrat Singh

HEART SURGEON:         Dr. John Storey

NEPHROLOGIST:            Dr. James C. Elliott

PODIATRIST:                   Dr. Charles Carroll

UROLOGIST:                    Dr. Bradley Orris

FRESENIUS SOUTHPORT CARE CLINIC:

Doctor: James C. Elliott

Director of Operations: Betsey (Elizabeth) Farrar-McIntyre

Clinical Manager: Melissa Neuman, R.N.

Social Worker: Amy A. Amico

Dietitian: Beth Walthen

Nurses: Vanessa Rainey, Victoria Posada, Tamara Fender

Technicians: Kebra Afflis, Blythe Chmielewski, Ann Flake, Kelly Glassburn, Taniel Harper, Amy Maryfield, Katie Zschunke  

FAMILY:

Wife: Maureen Gilmer

8 children: Kelby (& Amanda), Archie (& Pam), Garrett (& Ryan), Sara (& Bryon), Erin, Evin, Ellen (& Dave), & Ethan

9 grandchildren: Gilmer (Allison, Dustin, Karson, Kyle, Paige), Wuczynski (Cole, Luke, Mylah, Tobyn)  

Nieces: Leslie (& Tom) Wayman, Lindsey (& John) Pendry

Cousins: Claire Marsh, Dorothy Virginia McKinney, Linda Kay Oberle

MINISTER:

The Rev. Archie L. Gilmer, Oak Grove Christian Church, Arden, N.C.

EXTENDED SUPPORT:

Mike & Marilyn Ayers, Jerry & Jan Lantz, The Book Club (Maureen Gilmer, Janet Coons (& Mike), MaryAnn Gerth (& Phil), Kay Rockel (& Doug), Dana Sherwood (& Bill), Pam Shuck (& Len), American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP)

EXTENDED MEDICAL:

Naturopath: Duncan Capicchiano, Melbourne, Australia                                       (dietary/treatments)

Online physician: Dr. Vivian, Huaxia Institute, Shijiazhuang City, Hebei Province, China (dietary/treatments)