By: Brian C. Kuhn- Graphic and Communications Specialist
The Box Butte General Hospital Dialysis Unit is hosting an Open House Tuesday, March 26, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm to invite the community to “Be a Donor, Save a Life.” “We will have information available on how a person can become a donor, as well as how to become a living donor,” said Dialysis Unit Manager Kailee Kelly, RN, CDN. The event is in celebration of National Kidney Month. Snacks and refreshments will be served, along with a tour.
In Nebraska there are nearly 450 people waiting for an organ transplant, according to the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services. 203 transplants were performed in 2016 from 70 donors. About 54 percent of eligible Nebraskans are registered as donors in the State Donor Registry. Nationally, there are 118,000 on the waiting list for an organ transplant, 82 percent of those are in need of a kidney. Sadly, 22 people die each day because the organ they need is not donated in time.
“You can see why it is so important to become a donor,” Kelly said. “Here at our Dialysis Unit, we’ve had three of our patients receive a kidney transplant over the past three years. That is truly a blessing.”
One of those recipients is Richard Flood of Alliance. Richard started dialysis at BBGH three years ago. “I let my blood pressure go too long,” he warned. “Because of that my kidney function went bad. I got on the donor list a year and a half ago. Then I got the call on February 10 of this year. I’m doing pretty good, though I still have to go back every two weeks, then three weeks, then once a month and once a year. You just work your way up.”
He said when they called about the transplant, “It really didn’t register at first. I thought they were just asking if I’d take one from someone if I had to. Then my wife said, ‘They’re giving you a kidney. Let’s go!’” He got the call at 1pm, arrived in Omaha at 8:30pm, and went into surgery at 9pm. “I can’t urge people enough to become a donor,” he continued. “I have a big family and want to stay alive for my kids. It’s a second chance on life. The only hard thing is someone died in order for me to get my kidney. That’s kind of hard to deal with. It would be easier if it came from a living donor. But I know who the person was and after six months (to give the family time for bereavement), that person’s family is going to get a very long letter from me. And the nurses in the hospital’s dialysis unit are great. I had to use another dialysis unit for a time elsewhere in Colorado, and I couldn’t wait to get back.”
Another transplant recipient, Frank Takase of Denver, had to wait five and a half years before his call. “My kidneys failed in 2013,” he said. “I have asthma, had an attack and was able to get to a hospital, but the next thing I know, it’s 21 days later. It was then that my kidney’s failed. Anyway, I moved to Hemingford in 2017 and started going to the BBGH Dialysis Unit then,” he said. “It is a great facility. But then, I got a call in May of 2018. We took off for Omaha, only to be called before we got there that they didn’t think the kidney was viable. I really wasn’t that disappointed because that meant I was at the top of the list! And sure enough, I got another call on August 15, 2018. The next morning I went into surgery. I can’t say enough about what it means to receive a new kidney and can’t say enough about why it is so important to become a donor. It completely changes a life … 180 degrees … a complete U-turn!”
Alliance resident Danny Escamilla received his transplant on October 19, 2017. “I was on dialysis at BBGH for almost two years when I got my call in 2017,” he recalled. “It was a very quick trip to Omaha. They did all the tests they need to do to make sure everything is okay, everything that has to do with kidneys. Everything came out alright and within a couple hours I was in surgery. I was able to send a letter to the donor’s father quite a while later. We stressed our gratitude and expressed our sorrow over the loss of his daughter. We told him we had just had a daughter and let him know her middle name was the same as hers.” He too, asked residents to consider becoming a donor. “Being a donor saves a life,” Danny said. “We’re pretty much helpless until someone has a gracious heart to be a hero. This one saved my life AND my family’s. Being a donor … if I could be one, I would. As far as what I went through while on dialysis … I love the nurses at the BBGH Dialysis Unit. Every one of them was absolutely amazing. They gave me 100 percent.”
BBGH’s Dialysis Unit Network Patient Representative Sandy Suetsugu, a native of Alliance, NE, has spent most of her adult life as an LPN. Being around patients is pretty much built into her DNA. She has been on dialysis for five years, four of those at BBGH and still does so. “I had to start dialysis due to Type 2 Diabetes complications,” she said. “Being an LPN, when I started utilizing BBGH’s Dialysis Unit in February of 2015 for my treatments it was pretty easy for me to say yes when they asked if I would like to be their Network Patient Representative ,” Sandy said. “And since patient education has always been one of my favorite things as a nurse, I enjoy doing it.”
Kailee said NPRs are role models in their clinic. “Sandy has such a positive outlook, and her experience as an LPN is really helpful in knowing what to ask patients if they need prompting.”
As an NPR, Sandy provides her fellow dialysis patients with her phone number if they want to talk. “I’ll also come in if they want to talk in person,” she said. “It’s mostly just visits to talk about ‘stuff.’ Oh, I’ll also do unannounced handwashing audits to make sure the staff is practicing proper hand hygiene.” She has nothing but good things to say about the BBGH Dialysis Unit. “I’ve been to four different dialysis facilities, from Hawaii to Las Vegas, to here, and this one is the best,” Sandy concluded. “The staff is very personable, professional, and very clean. They’re just fun to be around.” Sandy plans to be at the Open House on March 26. “Like I said … I love to educate,” she concluded with a smile.
Box Butte General Hospital is an equal opportunity provider and employer.