What is kidney disease?
When your kidneys function normally, they help remove waste from the blood, remove excess water from the body, regulate blood pressure and control red blood cell production. Kidney disease occurs when your kidneys are not able to work to their full capacity. At this point in time, there is no cure for kidney disease, but treatment options are available.
What is dialysis?
Dialysis is a medical treatment that takes the place of normal kidney functions. For most patients, dialysis treatment is needed permanently, unless a kidney transplant becomes an option.
What does dialysis feel like?
Most people don’t feel much during treatment. People receiving hemodialysis often feel cold or may have slight discomfort when the needles are inserted. Those on peritoneal dialysis sometimes say they feel “full” from the fluid. Over time, most people become accustomed to this feeling and are no longer bothered by it.
What kinds of dialysis are available?
MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital provides both hemodialysis (HD) and peritoneal dialysis (PD):
Hemodialysis (HD) is a treatment that takes place at the dialysis center three days per week. During HD, a dialysis machine helps to remove waste products from your blood.
Peritoneal dialysis (PD) is a more flexible treatment option that is done at home, rather than in a dialysis center. It takes less time, but is done more often (typically five days a week). With PD, you slowly receive dialysate through a catheter in your stomach, which removes extra fluid and waste products from your blood.
How long is dialysis treatment and how often do I have to have it?
Dialysis schedules depend on the type of treatment you require. If you receive your treatment at our center, you will most likely come 3 days a week (either a Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday schedule). On average, the treatment is approximately 4 hours long. Treatment times can vary as your nephrologist determines the exact length of treatment you need. You have more flexibility when you do PD or home hemodialysis, but the treatment is usually five days a week for shorter lengths of time.
Do I need to bring anything with me to treatment?
Everything essential to treatment is provided. Food is not allowed on the dialysis unit, but you will be given ice and a blanket. If you would like to bring something with you to pass the time, you are welcomed to do so. Some people choose to bring books, magazines, DVD players and other items. Please be respectful of other patients around you by wear headphones if listening to music or movies and speak in a soft tone if you use your cell phone.
Where should I park when I come for dialysis?
We have designated parking spots throughout the MedStar Good Samaritan campus specifically for dialysis patients. Ask your social worker for a pink parking card to display on your dashboard that authorizes you to park in these areas. There are parking spots in front of the Walker building. If you receive treatment in the main unit, you can also park in the garage. Talk with your social worker about obtaining an access card to allow you entrance from the garage to the hallway near dialysis.
What happens if I am unable to come at my assigned time? Am I allowed to come at a different time?
We understand that sometimes emergencies or conflicts come up and you are not able to come to your regular treatment. We do our best to accommodate these changes, so please notify the dialysis nurse if you would like to come in during a different time. Different times often cannot be guaranteed in advance, but staff will notify you as soon as possible to let you know if another time is available.
Is it normal to feel scared or overwhelmed when starting dialysis?
Dialysis and end stage renal disease are life-changing events. There is a lot of new information to take in, new medications to take, diet changes, and a time commitment to complete dialysis treatment. It is completely normal to feel overwhelmed by all the changes and feel scared or nervous about the process. Your care team at MedStar Good Samaritan understands these feelings and provides support and reassurance throughout the dialysis process. You can also speak with your social worker about your feelings and concern at any time.
Does my insurance pay for dialysis?
Insurance coverage is different depending on your specific policy, but normally pays for some, if not all, of the cost of dialysis. Our insurance coordinator will meet with you shortly after you start treatment to discuss your specific situation and needs. Many people apply for secondary insurance to ensure all treatment costs are covered. If you have any questions about insurance, speak with your social worker or insurance coordinator.
Do I have to follow a special diet when I have kidney disease?
You may not be able to eat everything and often have to limit the amount of fluid you drink when you have kidney disease. Your diet may vary according to the type of dialysis you are receiving. PD allows for a more liberal diet and less fluid restriction than HD. When you begin dialysis, a dietitian will review which foods are good for you and which should be limited.
Can I maintain my job while on dialysis?
Many people are able to maintain work schedules while coming to dialysis. Your care team at MedStar Good Samaritan Dialysis Center will do all they can to accommodate any special schedules or needs you have related to your job. Some patients choose not to work once starting dialysis treatment.
Can I travel while on dialysis?
PD allows for the easiest travel. Supplies can be shipped to your destination and treatment can be done on your own schedule. Even if you are on HD, arrangements can be made for you while you travel. Notify your social worker of your travel plans at least 3 weeks in advance (less if it's an emergency situation). Ask your social worker if you have any questions or concerns about travelling.
How do I get to my treatment if I don’t have a car?
If you have Medical Assistance insurance, transportation can be coordinated for medical appointments only at no cost. Your social worker will arrange this for you. If you do not have Medical Assistance or need transportation to other places (church, grocery store, etc.), MTA Mobility is an option. Your social worker can give you an application and explain the certification process. Once you have MTA Mobility, you are then eligible for premium programs such as Call-A-Ride and Call-A-Ride Center.
As an existing dialysis patient, how do I transfer to MedStar Good Samaritan’s Dialysis Center?
You need to inform your current dialysis center that you would like to transfer units. A staff member there, usually a social worker, will contact MedStar Good Samaritan to make a referral.
I have trouble affording my medication. Is help available?
Some dialysis medicines can be very expensive, even with prescription coverage. Let your social worker know if you have trouble affording your medications. There are some assistance programs available that can significantly reduce your costs.
How do I go about getting a kidney transplant?
In order to receive a transplant, you must go through a transplant work up. You can then receive a referral from your nurse practitioner for the hospital of your choice. You will then receive a packet from the transplant center to explain the transplant process. Let the transplant center know if you have someone willing to donate a kidney. Learn more about kidney transplants at the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute.