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Dialysis unit opens at Schuyler Hospital

MONTOUR FALLS—The new dialysis unit at Schuyler Hospital is now officially open and ready to serve area patients.
The unit in the hospital’s lower level, near the Skilled Nursing facility, was re-purposed from former office space to house four dialysis stations to serve out-patients. It’s an attractive space with dusty rose and sage green walls, a TV and telephone for each patient, curtains for privacy if this is wished-for, or the opportunity to talk to other patients for those who prefer company. The dialysis opened May 1.
The new facility is the result of conversations beginning in 2005 between Arnot Ogden Memorial Hospital and Schuyler Hospital personnel.  “The past three years we started putting our nose to the grindstone, noting the number of patients who had to drive by Schuyler Hospital who were coming here for dialysis,” says Deborah Martin, assistant Vice President at Arnot Ogden.  “Right now we have about 14 patients we dialyze at either Arnot Ogden or Corning Hospital who would go to Schuyler Hospital.”
Kidney dysfunction happens for a number of reasons and is experienced by each patient with a variety of symptoms.  Dialysis patient Grace Stratton, who lives in Hector, sums it up simply – “You feel awful.”  One of the first things she noticed was extreme weight-loss.  “I thought, awesome!” she says.  Then, when her doctor told her why she’d been losing so much weight and explained she needed dialysis, “All I did was bawl,” she recalls.
Hemodialysis is a mechanical method of purifying the blood by circulating it through a machine which removes waste products, a filtering process otherwise handled by a healthy person’s kidneys.  
Three times a week, Stratton, like other dialysis patients, reports to Arnot Ogden Hospital.  She’s weighed, her temperature, blood pressure and other vital signs are measured and recorded, then she sits in a chair like a recliner where, feet elevated, she’s connected through a catheter in her upper chest to a machine approximately the size of a water heater.
While her blood is circulating through the machine for cleansing, Stratton sometimes tries to sleep – she has to get up really early in the morning to get to the hospital for her 6:15 a.m. appointment.  She experiences mood swings and major blood-pressure fluctuations during the four-hour dialysis; she says the nurses are sensitive and sympathetic to these symptoms.
Stratton, like most dialysis patients, must show up on schedule – no time off for good behavior or illness.   If the weather’s bad, she’s still got to get there.  If she’s slightly ill with a cold, flu or other “bug,” she’s given a mask to wear – but she’s got to be there anyway.  “You can call in sick but it’s not recommended,” Stratton says.  Patients who are very ill are hospitalized for in-patient treatment.    
The four hours of sitting relatively still are tiring, so while patients often feel better because their blood has been filtered, they may simultaneously feel wrung-out afterwards.  Stratton generally leaves dialysis 11 pounds lighter from the fluid removed.  On the afternoon we spoke, after returning from dialysis she was planning to get back into her nightgown to return to bed for the rest of the day.
Most chronic dialysis patients require the three-times-weekly procedure for the rest of their lives, unless they’re able to have a kidney transplant.  Stratton, like most, is waiting and hoping.
In the meantime, having dialysis at Schuyler Hospital will shave hours off her regular commute.  She’s looking forward to being here with mixed feelings.  She’s made friends with many of her fellow patients and staff at Arnot Ogden Hospital, and wonders whether she’ll find such good friends among staff and fellow patients in Schuyler Hospital’s Dialysis Unit.  Given Stratton’s bubbly personality, this will probably not be an issue.  And having more time to enjoy the spring and summer outdoors could be a good thing. 

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