By Kasia Michalik
In 1961, James Haviland, president of the King County Medical Society helped Belding Scribner receive a grant from the Heartford Foundation. On Jan. 1, 1962 the world's first out-of-hospital nonprofit community outpatient dialysis center opened its doors in the basement of the Swedish Hospital nurses' residence. The then three-bed Seattle Artificial Kidney Center (SAKC) provided overnight dialysis twice a week.
Started as a nonprofit, he SAKC, the Northwest Kidney Center (NKC) since 1970, has grown over the years and continued to be one of the most prominent nonprofit kidney centers in the United States.
During the early 1960s and 1970s, there was no funding for end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients. The way to be treated with dialysis, if a patient had ESRD, was determined by six anonymous individuals who sat on the now famous Admissions and Policy Committee. These six individuals reviewed who was eligible to basically receive treatment and live. During the first 13 months, the committee reviewed 30 cases, 17 of those cases were medically suitable and 10 were given the treatment and "life."
"Life magazine came to Seattle and interestingly, Dr. Scribner was thinking that they were going to write about how he had developed this miracle treatment that was keeping people who would have been dead, alive," said Linda Sellers, public relations manager at NKC. "What the story focused on instead was the committee that allocated this scare resource. There were only three stations in that early dialysis unit."
When 1964 rolled around the center expanded to 10 stations and was serving 47 patients. Because the costs were high, Scribner and his team developed home hemodialysis (HHD). In 1967, they opened their own training and support program. To this day HHD is a major focus for the NKC.
"We are still champions of home dialysis. Our rate of proportion of patients at home is twice the national average," Sellers said. "We're at 16 percent. We push it. People often feel better."
Peritoneal dialysis (PD) came shortly after and was developed at the University of Washington by Dr. Fred Boen and Henry Tenckhoff. Shortly after it was offered through SAKC. In 1978, continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD) became available.
When federal funds were accessible in 1971, NKC started the Northwest Organ Procurement Agency that served Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. the program retrieved and distributed organs for transplants.