A gentler approach

Bruce Burnside of Titusville visits DaVita Dialysis Center three times a week for kidney dialysis treatments. Each visit takes eight hours. Dr. Randy Zelen is the medical director of the center.

VERNON TOWNSHIP — Bruce Burnside of Titusville has a standing date three times a week.

A quick glance shows a man dressed in blue jeans, cowboy boots and red shirt. He looks like he could be going to a movie theater or dance hall.

Instead, he spends eight hours, three nights a week, in a reclining chair — not at home watching television, but at the DaVita Dialysis Center, where he receives kidney dialysis treatments.

When many people his age are thinking of going to bed 9 p.m., Burnside gets in his car in Titusville and travels to the Park Avenue Plaza in Vernon Township to spend the night receiving the eight-hour treatment.

Diagnosed with sclarderma three years ago, 61-year-old Burnside now is retired from his carpenter job. Sclarderma, in his words, is a condition where “my immune system attacked me.”

It left him with failed kidneys, necessitating the dialysis which removes toxins and excess fluid from the body.

Many dialysis patients have treatments of three or four hours each, during daytime hours. The center has 16 stations, which are filled every day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and every night. Between 30 and 32 patients are served daily, seven days a week.

When offered the night-time option, Burnside, along with 15 others, signed up without hesitation. Three more are on the waiting list.

“It’s a better process,” Burnside said of the more lengthy treatment. “It’s a lot more gentle. It takes longer,” but for him it is worth it.

To remove the typical four quarts of fluid built up between treatments, it takes about four hours, according to the doctor.

“It’s one-third more vigorous,” he said, referring to the treatment.

Stretching the treatment out means the process is more gentle, something Burnside appreciates given he also has other health problems.

Another advantage of the longer process is that “it is not as draining,” said Burnside. Comparing how he felt after the eight-hour process versus the four-hour one, “I was not as tired out as I was. By the time I felt recovered, the day was shot. Now I’m ready to go as soon as I get out.”

Other patients have voiced similar sentiments, according to Stacey Leach, director of the center. “They go home, take a shower and go right to work,” she said.

But there is one great disadvantage, hooked up to the machine, Burnside can’t eat or drink anything for eight hours — nor can he stand up. Patient’s blood pressure could drop rapidly, causing them to choke on a food particle or fall if they were standing.

However, they can read, write, crochet, cross stitch, watch television or do anything they can accomplish within the limited mobility of sitting in a chair with needles and tubing attached to the one arm. Sleep is one of Burnside’s favorite activities.

Being a dialysis patient means you have to monitor all fluids you take in every day, said Dr. Randy Zelen, medical director of the center. Patients are told how much fluid intake they can have daily and must not exceed it or they will have to have additional treatments.

Burnside is an excellent patient, said Leach and Zelen. He reviews all his charts after each treatment to determine what — if anything — needs to be changed. He studies all the research and information available. “The more you understand, the better patient you will be,” he said, adding with a laugh, “I’m almost a doctor now.”

His advice for others facing dialysis is simple. “Find out all you can about it,” he said, noting a diagnosis of kidney dialysis treatment is not a death sentence. Some patients have been on dialysis for 17 and 18 years and are still doing well, according to Leach.

While Burnside enjoys going to the center, he may be changing in the future. He is one of the patients signed up for a new clinical trial of home treatments.

He is looking forward to being involved in the trial — one of only three centers in the United States approved for participation.

After three years in the program, he has confidence in every angle of it. Without dialysis, he knows he would have died.



Jane Smith can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at jsmith@meadvilletribune.com

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