By Anna Ramirez and Mikki Ward
Dialysis is a life-sustaining treatment for people with kidney failure. At the end of 2011, 50,273 people in Texas were receiving renal replacement therapy. Of these, 39,177 were dialysis patients receiving thrice-weekly treatments.
What happens when there is a catastrophe and patients can’t go to their dialysis facility? The Texas ESRD Emergency Coalition (TEEC) grew from a very real need to ensure patients receive dialysis treatments when they have to evacuate or can’t go to their home facility.
Dialysis professionals and the ESRD Network needed to be able to track patients and to ensure they had access to dialysis services no matter where they ended up. TEEC also helps facilities to prepare for patients coming into their facilities that have been evacuated.
After Hurricane Katrina, I found myself and two co-workers driving a fully stocked 40-foot motor home through Alabama to Mobile.
Trees lay across the roads and the gas stations were closed. The closer we got the more it seemed deserted, and what I can imagine a war zone would look like. At that time we were not sure in what capacity we would be used, but as nephrology nurses we “thought” we were ready.
We pulled up to a dialysis facility next to numerous other campers. This was a fully functional base camp surrounding a very busy dialysis facility, but this was not where our services were needed.
We were quickly corralled into a car with our belongings and delivered to a nearby Baptist church where we would call home for the next seven days. The three of us were charged with manning a shelter in this church for displaced dialysis patients, some of their family members and also evacuated dialysis staff.
There were approximately 45 people when we arrived and by the end of the week the number had grown to almost 80.
Cots and blankets lined the hallways of the Sunday school class rooms and the large fellowship hall. The kitchen was filled with donated food. People milled around, but were mostly glued to the small TV tuned to the news.
After a short time to assess the situation we realized we had to organize the volunteers, get to know the patients and formulate some kind of routine.