Chronic kidney disease is a growing health problem in the United States.
Chances are, it could strike someone in your family, as 26 million Americans -- or one in nine people -- have kidney disease. Approximately 400,000 people have dialysis every week, meaning they're hooked up to machines that do what their kidneys can't.
Now, a one-of-a-kind program right here in Michiana is making life easier for the many folks who need kidney dialysis just to stay alive.
Darlene Wiley of South Bend suffers from diabetes. Three times a week, she spends the night at Fresenius Medical Care in South Bend for kidney dialysis.
It's the only center in northern Indiana offering nocturnal dialysis, which is said to be gentler on the body. Even better, patients can get the treatment while they sleep.
"If your kidneys were functioning, they would function, obviously, around the clock, 24 hours a day," Clinical Manager Lori McIntyre explains. "Dialyzing for eight hours instead of four is essentially doubling the amount of time your generic kidney here is functioning."
Darlene was diagnosed with diabetes in 1989 and was told two years ago that her kidneys were failing. Darlene was surprised because she felt relatively healthy, but she had noticed some changes in her body, including swelling.
While working full time, Darlene started having dialysis four hours a day, three days a week at Fresenius. She had to work the life-saving treatment around her work schedule.
"It was get up, go to work, go to dialysis, go home, get up, go to work, and then I may have a night free. But I would usually be so tired that it didn't matter," she explains.
It left her little time for socializing, spending time with family, or just having fun. But that's all changed thanks to the nocturnal dialysis program offered by Fresenius.
Darlene and Lori have their nightly routine of weighing in, checking vitals, and then hooking Darlene up to the machine that acts as her artificial kidney, taking the blood in, cleansing it, and returning it to Darlene's body.
Lori says it has given her patients their quality of life back.
Darlene has even noticed how much better she feels now that she is doing dialysis overnight.
"Nocturnal is low, long, and slow. It's not as hard on my body," she explains. "It's much cleaner, my blood is much cleaner than it was before and so I actually have the energy to do something."
"I can go in Thursday night, sleep a little Friday, and then go into work, and I have Friday night and Saturday night and all of Sunday free until I have to be here at 3, and it's like, 'How great is that, I have a weekend free!" Darlene says.
And Lori says other patients agree.
"The nocturnal patients really like that it's not interfering with their lives, they don't have to adjust their work schedule," she explains. "We have college students who come at night to accommodate those schedules."
Lori believes this will catch on nationwide as more doctors and patients realize that it's not only healthier but also improves their quality of life. And she says, if you don't think patients can sleep while getting dialysis, you're wrong.
Like most dialysis patients, Darlene is on a waiting list for a kidney transplant. The wait is usually at least four years.
Nocturnal dialysis is currently being offered at the Fresenius location in downtown South Bend. It doesn't cost any more than daytime dialysis and is usually covered by insurance.
Fresenius Medical Care South Bend is located at 320 South Saint Joseph Street in South Bend. You can call the office at 574-246-0752 or visit their website: www.ultracare-dialysis.com