It is easy to imagine the broken bones and nasty skin infections that come from wading through deep flood waters. We have seen these images from Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Harvey, and we may see similar video and pictures from Hurrican Irma which may crash into Florida and Puerto Rico with a category 5 impact (the strongest hurricanes that can form on planet Earth). According to nurse, Sue Anne Bell, during Hurricane Harvey, hundreds of Texans were waiting in line for hours to receive life-sustaining treatment, with many reporting going days without Dialysis. While any natural disaster is scary, the question is: "How can Chronic Kidney Disease patients receive their critical Dialysis Treatments during disasters to avoid serious complications and even death?"
Recommended Reading: What Happens To Dialysis Patients During Natural Disasters & Emergency Evacuations?
During Hurricane Katrina, where 94 dialysis facilities were closed after the storm due to loss of power or flooding, over 6,000 Dialysis patients were affected. One study found that those who missed three or more Dialysis visits because of Katrina were twice as likely to be hospitalized in the month after the hurricane.
While some scrambling is unavoidable in a disaster because nothing is fully predictable, one of the most pressing medical needs must be getting people to Dialysis treatment. In Texas during Hurricane Harvey, those who were able to get Dialysis Treatment were receiving shortened Dialysis sessions of two hours each, just enough to hopefully keep most patients out of danger for the short term.
Dr. Steve Fadem (Medical Director at a DaVita Dialysis Center) said, "This is surreal. I've never seen anything like this ever in my career. I've been doing this for almost 40 years." At DaVita Med Center Dialysis, nurses tended to dozens of patients on dialysis machines while another 100 people waited their turn. Some were clearly uncomfortable, and a number said they hadn't been dialyzed in four days.
Since the number of hurricanes and extreme weather events are increasing, Dialysis patients should try these following tips to remain as safe as possible:
- Wear your Fistula Protector Wristbands (get them here). During Hurricane Harvey, we received hundreds of emails from grateful Dialysis patients and Healthcare Professionals who said that the Fistula Protector Wristbands helped patients keep their AV Fistulas safe during dramatic rescues and brave good-samaritan actions.
- If you are aware of a possible natural disaster, then ask your Dialysis Nurse to receive treatment in advance of the storm. This smart action prevented hospitalizations and deaths during the Superstorm Sandy in New Jersey.
- Dialysis patients who are unable to find an open center can get help from the nationwide Kidney Community Emergency Response Coalition by calling 1-866-901-3773. You can also contact KidneyBuzz.com to help address non-emergency questions at (949) 715-8788.
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