The gift of a better life


Sue Mason, patient care manager at ambulatory hemodialysis, and Bob Baker, CEO of the Lakeridge Foundation, stand with one of the 87 kidney dialysis machines to be purchased over the next three years thanks to donations made to the foundation. The new machines are much more efficient than the old ones and help make for a better quality of life for those undergoing dialysis treatment.

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

In 2009, John Mash received the greatest gift of all: the gift of life.

The Oshawa resident had been undergoing kidney dialysis at Lakeridge Health for some time, a process that was keeping him alive until a suitable donor could be found.

“It was a long process. I was at the kidney clinic for several years with my kidney function declining gradually,” Mash says of his time on kidney dialysis. “I had terribly high blood pressure and (my doctor) sent me to a specialist and when we finally got the blood pressure somewhat under control, he told me my kidney was on its way out.”

Mash would later be told that the waiting list for a kidney from a non-living donor could be as long as seven years. However, a member of Mash’s family ensured that he wouldn’t have to wait that long.

“I was very fortunate. Unknown to me, my niece had started getting tested to see if she could help,” Mash tells The Oshawa Express. “Two years later, she got healthy enough that they would do the surgery.”

And it’s because of that gift that Mash was able to stick around to be with those that he loves.

It is also because of this process that Mash and his family give their time and effort to Lakeridge Health for all it did while he was on dialysis.

“When people ask us to do something, we give them our time and support,” Mash says. “While we do help financially when we can, it’s very small in comparison to what we received.”

One of the efforts that Mash has helped with is the Lakeridge Foundation’s effort to get new kidney dialysis machines for the hospital – an effort that will help make Lakeridge’s services for those on dialysis among the best in the province.

All about quality of life

Bob Baker, the CEO of the Lakeridge Foundation, and Daina Porter, a communications officer with the foundation, can’t decide on whether the new kidney dialysis machines are bigger or smaller than one would think a dialysis machine might be.

While that discussion was eventually settled by agreeing their respective heights may lead to different size comparisons, what they could agree on was just how efficient the new machines are.

The new machines, which cost about $25,000 each, require much less bicarbonate priming fluid. The hospital’s old machines required between four and six four-litre jugs each time it was used. The new ones only require one.

The dialysis machines now find their home on the eighth floor of the C wing of the hospital, where one can find rooms with the TV turned to the local news for dialysis patients to watch.

The dialysis machines – 87 of them over three years – were purchased due in part to a donation drive by the foundation, with the official announcement coming at a Kidney Day event at Lakeridge’s Whitby location on Thursday, March 12.

“In early 2013, working with the hospital and determining our priorities on what to raise funds for, we became aware that the hospital required 87 new dialysis machines over the period of three years. We made that our priority,” Baker says. “Thus far, we’ve raised enough funds for 46, and we will continue to raise funds. We’re hoping to raise funds for another eight this year.”

While the machines Lakeridge had weren’t out of date, Baker said the new machines available were more efficient and would better serve the hospital’s dialysis patients, of which it sees approximately 300 per day.

“Technology changes. People change their cellphones every two or three years because of technology upgrades. You could still use the original iPhone, but it’s not as good as getting the iPhone 6,” Baker says. “So our machines were in good shape without question, but we need to get advanced technology. We run six days a week, so we want to make sure the equipment is running at its optimal peak.”

Looking to ensure that dialysis patients aren’t spending all of their time at the hospital, Lakeridge is looking more into the options available for home-based dialysis, Baker says.

“You come in here three, four days a week for three, four hours at a time. There are now situations where we’re purchasing home machines and the person can actually hook up to the dialysis machine when they sleep at night, and then they can continue with somewhat of a normal life,” Baker says.

Baker says that the new machines are just another step in making sure the quality of life for a dialysis patient is as good as it can be.

“Improving and maintaining quality is a key focus (of the home-based dialysis machines),” he adds.

The new dialysis machines are so important, Baker says, that the foundation dedicated much of its efforts to raising the funds to purchase them.

“In 2013, almost all of our emphasis was on dialysis machines. So our golf tournament, our gala – our two signature events – all of the funds raised from those were for the dialysis machines,” he says. “It’s just the generosity of the community supporting what they feel is a high priority.”