Dialysis and COVID-19, a scary mix for renal patients
The advent of COVID-19 has created a new challenge for diabetic patients with end-stage renal disease as, despite their conditions, they are forced, at least twice per week, to operate within the restrictions as it relates to social-distancing guidelines and the curfew orders.
COVID-19, which has claimed thousands of lives globally, has been particularly devastating to renal patients, who have weakened or compromised immune systems. Up to Wednesday, Jamaica recorded 569 coronavirus cases. Nine persons have died and 279 have recovered.
St Elizabeth resident Lincoln Solomon, who undergoes dialysis treatment at Sunshine Dialysis Centre in Montego Bay twice per week, is not too worried despite travelling via public transportation.
Solomon, a retired teacher, said he has been undergoing dialysis for 20 years and he follows his doctor’s orders and keeps abreast of what’s happening as it relates to taking precautionary measures to protect himself.
“My only worry would be the fact that I use public transportation. The Government stated some things that should happen with public transportation, but it’s not really happening with all the buses. The taxis are maintaining the social-distancing orders, but the buses are full same way. What I try to do sometimes is get the front seat of the bus,” said Solomon.
Western Jamaica-based videographer Allan Vanriel, another dialysis patient, said the financial cost has become more burdensome during the pandemic.
“Financially, it is a mammoth task. You have to find some $15,000 two times a week for the procedure and transportation,” explained Vanriel.
“I don’t really worry because I always protect myself by wearing a mask and using sanitiser. I don’t really have a challenge when it comes to transportation because the taxi operators abide by the Government’s social-distancing rules. However, every time I have to come out (of home), I am at more risk because I live in Hanover and do my dialysis in Montego Bay,” added Vanriel. Dr Lilieth Johnson-Whittaker, nephrologist at the Sunshine Dialysis Centre, said despite the pandemic, dialysis patients have to be turning out for treatment. She said that while they have been doing their best to protect patients, the concern lies with them travelling to and from these facilities twice a week.
“The fact that they are at a stage of severe kidney failure makes them at risk for infections, but the dialysis procedure itself does not pose an additional risk for something like COVID-19,” said Johnson-Whittaker. “They need dialysis for survival. It actually purifies their system … improves their health. Such a patient, COVID-19 or not, has to undergo treatment; it is obligatory.”
“I think the main challenge for our patients is transportation. COVID-19 has increased the cost tremendously (through charter service). I have not experienced much fear in our patients coming for dialysis. I think they feel relatively safe once they get here. The fear is getting here and getting back home,” added Johnson-Whittaker.