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Evening option for dialysis patients

A patient during a dialysis session in hospital.

A patient during a dialysis session in hospital.

Patients suffering from kidney failure can now go for their four-hour dialysis session in the evening through a new hospital shift created to cater for their own needs.

Called the “twilight shift”, the evening session started being offered earlier this month between 8 p.m. and midnight at Mater Dei Hospital’s Renal Unit – allowing patients to get on with their daily lives.

Nursing officer Reno Calleja, who coordinates the unit, explained that, until last year, the dialysis sessions were offered between 8 a.m. and noon and from 2 to 6 p.m. Patients have to go for three dialysis sessions a week, with each session lasting four hours.

“This created problems for a number of patients – parents had problems finding somewhere to leave their children, people have to take leave from work, for example,” he said. Through the twilight shift, patients were able to go for dialysis while carrying on with their daily lives, Mr Calleja said. The kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products from the blood and, when these fail, dialysis treatment substitutes many of the kidneys’ normal duties. Not turning up for dialysis is not an option – it will eventually lead to the patient’s death. “Dialysis is not a secondary treatment so patients have to work their schedule and commitments around it,” Mr Calleja said.

At present, 135 patients aged between 18 and 83 receive dialysis treatment at Mater Dei Hospital which involves inserting a needle, attached by a tube to a machine, into a blood vessel. Blood is transferred into the machine, which filters out waste products and excess fluids, and is then passed back into the patient’s body.

Another 110 patients are on peritoneal dialysis, which takes place at home. Dialysis fluid is pumped into the abdomen and as blood moves through, waste products and excess fluid move into the dialysis fluid. The fluid is then drained.

Mr Calleja said that the home dialysis was convenient for some patients but not for all. At hospital, 30 patients can receive dialysis at one go. Kidney failure is caused by a number of factors, including diabetes. In fact, about 50 per cent of kidney patients in Malta suffer from diabetes.

Patients usually continue receiving dialysis treatment until they receive a kidney transplant. Last year saw a record number of kidney donors – 16, compared to the 12 in 2010.

William Grech, 54, who went for his dialysis treatment on Friday’s twilight shift said: “This time (in the evening) works much better for me as it frees up the day and you don’t have to worry about getting back to work or rushing,” he said.

Although he recently stopped working, Mr Grech – who has been on dialysis for four years – said it was a great inconvenience to go to the sessions during a working day. “Depending on the session, I would have to leave early and then go back to work afterwards…four hours later,” he said.

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