For many people with kidney disease, the current pandemic adds a layer of complexity to the challenges of managing a healthy diet, receiving regular dialysis, obtaining medication and more. In a virtual town hall last week, co-hosted by the American Kidney Fund, IPRO and the Betsy Lehman Center, four speakers offered information and encouragement to help people navigate their logistics and worries during the pandemic.
Daniel Weiner, M.D., a nephrologist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, offered insight on current testing for COVID-19 and how to stay safe at dialysis centers and in the community. He also emphasized the importance of continuing regular treatment. “Hemodialysis is lifesaving and essential,” he said. “It’s important to make sure you get your dialysis and in as safe a way as possible.”
Dialysis clinics are taking extra steps to ensure safety, said Jim Reid, RN, an operations director for Dialysis Clinics Inc. (DCI) in Connecticut. Many of these measures are visible to patients, but others are not. Most clinics set aside designated spaces for dialyzing people who may have COVID-19 and telehealth visits have become more frequent for non-dialysis health services offered by centers. Also, staff are regularly screened for signs of illness and infection control audits at the clinics occur more frequently.
M.J. Valerio, R.N., a nurse manager for DCI who also supports patients receiving dialysis at home, notes that all patients can maintain access to clinic resources from home including dieticians. Social workers and others at the clinic can help with the logistics of receiving needed dialysis supplies at home, as well as medication management and transplant list services.
David Walsh, a chemical engineer technologist from Woburn who received a kidney transplant in February, relies on a practical approach and positive attitude to manage the risk of coronavirus infection. He acknowledged that being a kidney patient during the pandemic is challenging but encouraged his peers, saying, “Stick with it, and you’ll be all the better for it."