Big Snow Brings Big Problems For Dialysis Patients : Shots - Health News Many patients with critical health needs--like dialysis-- have been snowed in by the snowstorms that hit the Northeast. Volunteers helping get them to their appointments.
NPR logo Big Snow Brings Big Problems For Dialysis Patients

Big Snow Brings Big Problems For Dialysis Patients

Snowmageddon. It's all we've heard about here in Washington lately, and we're pretty sick of the white stuff. Power outages and impassable roads may be annoyances for us, but being marooned at home is a health problem for some people.

The latest blizzard dropped more than 10 inches of snow around Washington, stranding many people in their homes. J. Scott Applewhite/AP hide caption

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J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The latest blizzard dropped more than 10 inches of snow around Washington, stranding many people in their homes.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Around Washington, most of the calls to ambulance crews the last few days have been from dialysis patients who need help getting to appointments.

"Missing a treatment isn't good," Kelsey Rood, communications manager for dialysis chain DaVita, tells Shots. A single missed appointment "wouldn't put most patients in a critical state, but missing two or three could. These are very sick people already. Not being able to get their blood cleaned means the toxins are building up more and more."

The National Kidney Foundation, DaVita, and other dialysis service providers have issued calls to drivers with four-wheel vehicles to help stranded dialysis patients who can't get to their weekly appointments--roughly 6,000 people in the D.C. area are on dialysis.

Rood says many centers weren't able to open at all yesterday because of the snow, which added to the patient backlog . Today, many people are still having trouble reaching the centers because of bad road conditions. Center staff have also had trouble getting in. "Luckily, through the help of the volunteers, we've been able to get a lot of patients and workers to the facilities," Rood says.

Other parts of the Northeast -- from Delaware to Pittsburgh -- saw the National Guard called in to help patients get to their vital appointments Wednesday.

Rood expects all of those in need around Washington to be reached before they reach a critical point. "Many actually haven't missed treatments, but we have some critical patients we need to get in today," she says.