TWIN FALLS • Watching her in action, you’d never guess Dolly Haines is a self-described needle-phobe who once shuddered at the thought of piercing skin.
She is calm and confident when inserting enormous needles into her father’s arm. Wearing her scrub top, she could pass for a veteran nurse.
But Haines doesn’t hold any nursing degrees. She’s just a regular person who wanted to help improve her dad’s quality of life by volunteering to administer his hemodialysis treatments.
Five days a week, Haines hooks up her father, Ed Moore, 86, to a machine in his bedroom that cleans every drop of his blood. The procedure takes almost three hours.
“I never, ever believed I was going to be able to do this,” Haines said of the complicated process. “Especially when they first showed me the needle, I was like, ‘Fat chance.’”
But when her father asked if she’d do it, she couldn’t say no. So, for the past two years, Haines has spent 20 hours a week (including time for preparation and cleanup) administering Moore’s hemodialysis.
“That is just so tremendous to me,” Moore said.
Janet Walker-Anderson, a nurse at DaVita Twin Falls Dialysis Center, teaches folks like Haines to administer dialysis — which removes waste products from the blood when the kidneys are in renal failure — to their loved ones. The training takes four weeks, four to five hours a day, five days a week. Walker-Anderson trains just one patient and one partner at a time.
“I tell ya, the first week of training, we were both ready to quit,” said Moore, laughing.
That’s not uncommon.
“It does seem overwhelming at first,” Walker-Anderson said. “They learn a few things each day. As long as they keep coming, it starts to click.”
Moore is one of nine patients in the Twin Falls area who receive hemodialysis in their homes, Walker-Anderson said. Because of his age and multiple health problems, he isn’t a candidate for a kidney transplant and will require the treatments for the rest of his life.
The World War II vet and widower has been on hemodialysis for the past 2 1/2 years. In addition to kidney failure, he has pulmonary fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.
For his first six months on hemodialysis, he received treatments at the clinic, where each session takes three to four hours. Understandably, it was a major inconvenience. Moore had to plan entire days around his appointments.
“At home hemo, you can work your schedule around your pattern of living,” he said, noting the home version is about an hour shorter, too. “It’s awful nice when it’s snowing or raining to be getting dialysis. You can look out the window and say, ‘Gee, isn’t that pretty out there?’ and not have to go out in it.”
Walker-Anderson said home hemodialysis has other perks too.
Patients receive treatments three days a week at the clinic. But if they stay home, it’s five days a week.
“That’s the beauty of home hemodialysis,” Walker-Anderson said. “It’s more like having a kidney that’s working.”
Recovery time is shorter for home patients because they receive treatment more frequently. After receiving dialysis at the clinic, patients often feel exhausted and dehydrated and experience other symptoms for as long as eight hours. At home, it takes only about an hour to feel better again, she said.
Another benefit of home hemo: Patients who receive treatment in the clinic must follow strict dietary guidelines, like avoiding potassium and phosphorous. Home patients are given much more freedom in what they eat.
Walker-Anderson sees her patients start to feel better within three days of beginning home hemodialysis.
“I think (home patients) have a lot less depression,” she said. “Their diet isn’t restricted. They’re able to make more choices about what days of the week to dialyze. They don’t have blood pressure problems. They feel a lot better about the treatments.”
Home hemodialysis has been available for decades, Walker-Anderson said. But it’s only become truly accessible in the past 10 years, thanks to the development of much smaller, portable dialysis machines, or “cyclers.”
“Many of my home hemo patients say they’re never going back to the clinic,” Walker-Anderson said.
Of the 100-110 people in the Twin Falls area who receive dialysis treatments, about 70 percent go into the clinic for treatment. Walker-Anderson said it’s likely that more patients don’t opt for the home method because they’re afraid to ask a loved one to make such a commitment.
Haines must stay nearby while Moore’s blood is being cleaned. Each session, she takes readings every 30 minutes and faxes her dad’s info to the clinic.
It’s given the father-daughter duo a lot of time to bond. They watch movies and TV, and Moore tells Haines stories about his life.
“We’re pretty attached to each other,” Haines said.
She credits Walker-Anderson for helping her believe she could actually learn to administer hemodialysis.
“Janet is a super teacher,” said Haines, who has become a dialysis pro. “If she can teach me, anyone can do it.”
But has Haines overcome her fear of needles when they’re used on herself? She shook her head. Nope, not a chance.