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No place like home: dialysis treatment is a game changer

Haemodialysis Home Training clinical nurse Julie Pearson with patient Michelle Ruha.

Michelle Ruha’s life could look very different.

She could spend every second day in hospital, instead she is able have her life saving treatment fit in around her schedule.
The Currumbin Waters resident is among a growing number of Australians who suffer from kidney failure and will require dialysis treatment for the rest of her life.
Through Gold Coast Health’s Renal Services Home Therapy program, Michelle has been able to cut out trips to hospital and time spent in waiting rooms, something she says has changed her life.
“This morning I was able to go out and have a coffee and come back and do the dialysis. Before I would have to travel to the hospital, get admitted. It would take a whole day,” she said.
Michelle needs haemodialysis, a process in which a machine acts as the kidneys and cleans the blood. It requires her to insert a cannula, a small tube, into a vein. 
While the process initially seemed confronting for Michelle, she hasn’t looked back since learning to do the procedure at home. It takes about four hours each session and she determines what time she does it.
Gold Coast Health Renal Home Therapy nurse unit manager Lisa Feltell said a patient’s fear of being able to perform their own treatment was a common obstacle and the service offered training to suit the patients and or carers learning styles to help overcome this.
“Training typically takes anywhere from 3 to 6 months however we don’t set a specific time limit,” she said.
“Our home dialysis team provides a lot support to help the patient overcome these fears by offering regular Home visits, 24/7 telephone on-call systems, extensive training and support.
“We also offer regular respite dialysis if the patients or carers ever want a break from doing their own treatment at home.”
Most patients qualify for a home service and the Gold Coast Health Renal Service offers extensive pre-dialysis education.
“The education outlines the treatment options for the patient allowing them to make an informed decision to what treatment would best suit them,” Lisa said.
“We then focus on the patient’s treatment preferences - home dialysis can offer better life-style advantages, improved flexibility for work, social activities and quality of life.”
Lisa said there was a great sense of achievement for the patient and staff when a patient was able to move to home treatment.
“It is also a wonderful feeling to give the patient control of their health and treatment regimes knowing they do not need to come to hospital three times a week for their dialysis,” she said.
“We become like extended family and continue to offer close support & guidance for our patients whilst they are on their dialysis journey at home.”
Overcoming her initial fears of home treatment has changed Michelle’s life and she hopes other requiring dialysis will also benefit from the service.
“It’s a gamechanger,” she said.

  • Patients seeking more information can phone the Renal Home Therapies Unit, Southport Health Precinct, on 07 5687 9420.

Last updated 01 Oct 2020