Sunday, April 6, 2014

Northwest Kidney Centers' Ceremony of Remembrance Helps

It's an annual event: the Northwest Kidney Centers' Ceremony of Remembrance. This is the third one I've attended - and it's clear I'm not ready to stop attending.

It's a simple, meaningful, event. Joyce Jackson, NKC CEO, leads off with a respectful introduction. There's a responsive reading led by the NKC Chaplain and a number of people who occupy various positions in Kidney World.

Then, there was a thoughtful address done by Dr. Andrew Brockenbrough, the Medical Director of the NKC in Kent. Kind, sensitive in his remarks, it was clear that he appreciates the profound impact kidney disease has on patients and families. And he passed on to us the impact that we as family have. As he said, "we're often the reasons why our loved ones went on dialysis in the first place."


After this, there's a ritual. We have the opportunity to come forth, pick up a shiny glass stone, place it into a container of water and say, as I did, "for my husband, Steve Williams." We take another stone as a memento. I now have three.

But there were sons and daughters, other wives, husbands, mothers and fathers, and even tearful staff and volunteers of the Northwest Kidney Centers.

This means something unique to each of us: everyone in that room has a deep and different understanding of the impact of kidney disease. And we didn't have to say a word.

There were happy contacts, too. I reconnected with Gloria Lomax, my dialysis "penpal," whose husband Ted died less than two months before Steve. There were the wonderful nurses and social workers who got us through the really tough times.

Maybe there'll be a day when I won't attend the Ceremony of Remembrance. But it isn't time yet.

Take care,
Linda Gromko, MD
www.LindaGromkoMD.com

Sunday, March 16, 2014

What was Sidney the Kidney Doing at the Rat City Roller Girls' 10th-Year Anniversary Bout?

Hey, I know that blue kidney-shaped figure standing in the distance! It was Sidney the Kidney in the stands of the Rat City Roller Girls' 10th-Year Anniversary Bout held in Seattle's Key Arena March 15. 

Don't know Sidney? Here's a picture Sid with Steve, Dr. Thakur, and me at a Northwest Kidney Centers Breakfast of Hope a lifetime ago:

Dr. Smiley Thakur, at left, with Sidney, Steve and me.


Sidney was visiting the Rat City Roller Girls crowd to remind us all that March is International Kidney Month. And to remind us that 1 in 9 people have kidney disease, though most don't know it. Sidney recommended that we all check with our health care provders about our own risk factors and kidney status.

Thanks, Sidney, for reaching out!

Take care,
Linda Gromko, MD

Monday, March 10, 2014

My Recent Visit to Bangkok Kidney Center: Travel if you Can!

I recently had an opportunity to attend a medical conference in Bangkok, Thailand - the trip of a lifetime. Bangkok is enormous - a bustling mix of eight million people, hundreds of glorious temples, and an abundance of tropical sun. The trip from Seattle took twenty hours each way - and it was worth every minute of the journey.

It's sad to recognize that I am more mobile since Steve died, and it made me think, "What would we have done to make such a trip?" Granted, we did travel with our NxStage machine and Steve dialyzed in our hotel during domestic travel. But international travel is more of a challenge. My curiosity led me to consult the concierge at the Anantara Resort where the medical conference was held. He directed me to Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital (www.samitivejhospitals.com) and to Nisarat Jaidee, MD. A visit to the center was arranged.

With Sirinapa Cheethanaghai at
left, and Dr. Nisarat at right
Dr. Nisarat and the staff welcomed me graciously. They guided me through the
dialysis center: a spotless, airy unit consisting of fifteen dialysis stations. The beds were separated by permanent partitians, not curtains. I recognized the Fresenius dialysis machines - the same type used in Seattle. I imagine that such familiar equipment would be comforting to traveling patents. And clearly, there is an atmosphere of professionalism and respect among the staff.


The staff consists primarily of RNs,
mostly medical-surgical nurses who
have received advanced training in hemodalysis. Central line access and fistula punctures are performed by Registered Nurses at this center. Line infections are rare.

Dialysis patients traveling in Thailand may make advance arrangements for treatment in Sumitivej Sukhumvit Hospital. Treatments are available six days a week, Sundays excluded. As in the US, most in-center patients dialyze three times a week, with treatments lasting four hours. Thailand hosts many patients for surgeries and treatments of all types.
 


Dr. Nisarat and the kind group of nurses explained that kidney disease is a growing problem in Thailand - usually the result of diabetes or hypertension, as in the US. Kidney transplants are encouraged. Home dialysis is generally peritoneal dialysis and is performed by RNs. I also learned that patients rarely ask to stop dialysis.

Near the entrance of the dialysis center was a lovely photo of patient celebrations, i.e., birthdays and such. Clearly, these nurses care deeply about their patients - just as the dialysis nurses in Seattle do!

 I valued my visit with the dialysis staff in Bangkok, and I wouldn't hesitate to have a patient or family member dialyze at the Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital while traveling in Thailand! How unfortunate it would be to miss a visit to Thailand - truly the "Land of Smiles!"

Take care,
Linda Gromko, MD

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Check out the Series from Jane McClure and me on Home Dialysis!

Check out the series Jane McClure and I have written for Dialysis Patient Citizens. This is Part II of our four-part post on "How to Set Up Your Home Dialysis Unit Without Feeling Like You're Living in an ICU!"  http://ow.ly/slBbF

It's good, practical information to help you make your home dialysis as easy and as comfortable as possible.

Take care,
Linda Gromko, MD

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Home Dialysis was the Best Gift I Could Have Given to My Husband!

In looking back over my late husband's multiple health problems, e.g., diabetes, cardiovascular disease, renal failure, peripheral vascular disease, etc., it's clear that quality of life was the thing that ultimately mattered most.

Steve Williams in 2009, on home
hemodialysis at the time

Home dialysis - first hemodialysis, and later peritoneal - offered Steve the best possible mobility, flexibility, and access to some semblance of normalcy. It gave him more time with his daughter, Brita, and more time with his many friends.

As strong advocates for home dialysis, Interior Designer Jane C. McClure and I have written the first of a four-part series on "Setting Up Your Home Dialysis Unit - Without Feeling Like You're Living in an ICU!" Check it out in the Patient's Voice Blog: http://bit.ly/1gv3Uuo

Remember, home dialysis can be an enormous gift. Learn to do it!

Linda Gromko, MD

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mid-Columbia Nephrology Seminar: Plenty of Content, an Abundance of Heart

In a well-orchestrated program led by Lyle Smith, MN, nephrology nurses and dialysis technicians from all over Washington and Oregon shared common - but challenging - concerns.

Held in Richland, Washington on October 20, 2013, issues covered included:
  • What's the most effective way to dialyze? How do you discharge an in-Center patient who is violent or otherwise inappropriate? What do the lab reports mean to our patients?
Dori Schatell, Director of the Medical Education Institute and co-author of the exceptional resource, "Help! I Need Dialysis!" spoke on issues of sexuality and fertility in the kidney patient. How much dialysis is necessary for a pregnant patient? How can we help our patients talk about sexuality concerns? How can we address self-image matters that impact relationships in all areas of life?

Jane McClure and I spoke about "How to Set Up Your Home Dialysis Center (Without Feeling Like You're Living in an ICU)." As the advantages of Home Dialysis become ever more clear, our patients need help in setting up their Home Centers in ways that are life-affirming!

Nancy Spaeth, RN - always inspiring after four kidney transplants - spoke about her experiences as one of the first Home Dialysis patients. She focused on the very real need for post-transplant patients to receive Physical Therapy and Physical Medicine care as part of their recovery.

It was a full and varied conference - plenty of content, and an abundance of heart.

Take care,
Linda Gromko MD

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Medical Writing Seminar Participants to Get a Glimpse of Home Dialysis

At my September 22nd Field's End Writing Seminar "Just What the Doctor Ordered," participants will get an upfront look at many things medical.  We'll cover medical terminology, basic disease processes, medical slang, "who's who on the medical food chain," and a range of other topics.

We'll have a number of writing exercises, of course. Like this one:

"Compare and/or contrast the following photos of individuals undergoing kidney dialysis treatments."

This photo of Bill Peckham dialyzing on a rafting trip - while drinking champagne from a can(!) - begs for comment, in contrast with the photo below it! The lower photo was lifted from the Internet: some unidentified woman tolerating her in-center treatment.


 
 

 
 What a difference!
 
A photo contrast like this reaffirms my confidence in the superiority of Home Dialysis!
 
For more information on the Writing Seminar, visit www.FieldsEnd.org.
 
Take care,
Linda Gromko, MD