STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Next, we'll hear about a procedure that has saved and extended many lives. Kidney dialysis works, but at a price: time. The procedure takes at least three hours, and it requires trips to a dialysis center several times a week. Now there's an alternative. More people with kidney disease are taking advantage of it: dialysis in their own homes.

Christopher Moore started home treatments a few months ago. NPR's Patti Neighmond reports on how it's improved his life.

PATTI NEIGHMOND: Christopher Moore is young, 28 years old, and active.

Mr. CHRISTOPHER MOORE: Go get the ball. Go get it.

NEIGHMOND: He enjoys his dogs - Harley and Sugar - but especially he enjoys working on 1967 Chevy truck.

Mr. MOORE: We, like, made all the headers, did everything to it pretty much -made the whole front end sheet metal, made the center console inside.

NEIGHMOND: The ultimate goal: a perfected, shiny specimen in a vintage auto show, maybe next year, says Moore, who works part time in the office of a construction company.

It certainly seems like a normal life, and it pretty much is until Moore gets ready to go to bed. Last October, Moore was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure, a result, doctors think, of an antibody reaction to a childhood illness. Moore went to a dialysis center for a couple of months, but he didn't like sitting still for three hours a day, three days a week. So when doctors suggested dialysis at home at night while he slept, Moore jumped at the chance.

Mr. MOORE: Right now, I'm just turning the machine on and opening my box of solution.

NEIGHMOND: A dialysis machine sits on a table next to Moore's bed. At night, it automatically pumps a sugar-like solution into his abdominal cavity where the solution sits and absorbs toxins from his blood, a cleansing that ordinarily his kidneys would take care of.

Mr. MOORE: Throughout the night, the machine will go through a series of drains and fills. I do about four a night. The machine will drain, and then it'll refill, and it'll dwell for two hours. And then it will refill, and then it'll dwell for two hours. And it does that four times throughout the night.

NEIGHMOND: And the used solution drains into a plastic bag which is later thrown away.

Mr. MOORE: What I do now is take the cassette, open it up and insert the cassette into the machine.

NEIGHMOND: Moore goes through a series of touch screen steps to set up the system. Then he prepares to connect himself to the machine. He has to attach tubes from the machine to a permanent catheter in his abdomen.

Mr. MOORE: I rinse and lather three times, making sure there's no germs, no bacteria or anything in my hands.

NEIGHMOND: Like a surgeon prepping, Moore washes his hands diligently three times. He puts a mask over his mouth. At this point, says Dr. Dylan Steer, everything must be sterile.

Dr. DYLAN STEER (Kidney Specialist, Scripps Memorial Hospital): There's a catheter that goes from the outside world where there are a lot of germs - and it's a dirty, dirty place - into the sterile environment of the abdomen.

NEIGHMOND: Steer is a kidney specialist at Scripps Memorial Hospital. He says some patients worry so much about making sure everything's sterile, they opt instead to stay with a dialysis center.

Dr. STEER: It really takes careful technique to prevent those germs from coming in, and even one small lapse in technique can lead to very severe abdominal infection.

NEIGHMOND: Another important safeguard: If anything goes awry during nighttime dialysis, there's a built in alarm. Moore says it picks up any problems.

Mr. MOORE: Whether there's air in the lines or whether the line is kinked or pinched or something like that, it'll just start beeping.

NEIGHMOND: Alerting Moore, who wakes up and resets the machine. Moore's partner, Lisa Cadenas, says the dialysis at home has made a world of difference for both of them.

Ms. LISA CADENAS: He's happier because it doesn't take up so much of his time and he has a way more energy instead of just taking naps and sleeping so much like he was when he was going to the center. Now he's actually doing stuff, actually hanging out with his friends, doing his hobbies, playing with the dog. So he's more outgoing.

NEIGHMOND: And the best news: Studies show patients like Chris Moore who do dialysis six or more times a week are healthier because toxins are filtered from their blood better than patients who do dialysis only three or four times a week.

Patti Neighmond, NPR News.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.