To say that Sharon Barajas is busy is an understatement.
Barajas, who co-owns a local landscaping business with her husband, typically leaves her home around 5 a.m. and is on the go for most of the day.
So when her kidneys began to fail due to complications from diabetes and Barajas had to start hemodialysis, the grueling schedule of treatments and recovery time really cut into her schedule and began to negatively impact her quality of life.
Several years ago, Barajas heard about an in-home hemodialysis program that is offered through Dr. Ken Boren and the Tempe Southwest Kidney Institute in Tempe. Intrigued, she visited the clinic and began using an NxStage System One portable dialysis unit that she can do from the comfort of home.
Much to her delight, the in-home hemodialysis has not only helped Barajas feel better, it has also given her back her freedom—and her life.
“Going in for hemodialysis was so inconvenient; I would have to drive to the center three days a week and it never felt personal or private; I’d always be with several other patients,” she said.
“Plus, it was a harsher treatment and it would take me a full day to recuperate, so I never felt very good.”
Boren, a nephrologist at Tempe Southwest Kidney Institute, said in-home hemodialysis has come a long way since he first trained on the system while in medical school in the 1970s. Boren helped open the center, located at 2141 E Warner Road, Suite 101, in south Tempe.
“A lot of physicians were familiar with the modality of in-home treatments, but then it sort of fell out of favor in the 1980s, although there were always a few patients doing it.”
A key reason the in-home treatments weren’t as popular back then, Boren explained, is that the machines tended to be unwieldy and non-portable.
When Boren attended a meeting in 2005 and listened to five or six patients talk about the benefits of in-home hemodialysis, he said he was struck by photos that one of the patients, who used an NxStage System One machine, showed the group.
“There he was, in his RV at Crater Lake up in Oregon, with the machine right there with him on a table. And I thought, gosh, if I had the choice to do hemodialysis in an RV I would want to do it too,” he said.
“With the System One, it frees up the patients and gives them a better quality of life.”
The only drawback to using the NxStage System One machine, Boren said, is that most patients use it five to six times a week instead of the usual three days a week at a clinic.
“The length of time of each session is less, though, so even though it is more frequent it’s still about the same amount of time,” Boren said.
“People have to be committed to doing it, but for those who want to be active, it’s a great option.”
Barajas said she doesn’t mind the extra treatments one bit. Each of the six hemodialysis sessions she does each week takes about half the time as those done in a clinic, she said, and she and her husband have the routine down to a science.
“I get up at 1:30 in the morning and get my machine ready, and then around 2 I wake up my husband who helps get everything started. It usually takes just over 2 hours to complete, and I can just relax and watch television the whole time,” she said.
By 5 a.m., Barajas said she is done with her hemodialysis and ready to get on with the rest of her day.
“I feel so much more in control now, and the important thing too is that I feel really well and my blood is much cleaner. People say I don’t look sick or act sick and they are right—I feel good.”
Boren said he hopes to expand the clinic to even more locations, in order to help even more kidney patients just like Barajas.
“We want to give more patients the ability to have in-home hemodialysis treatment and to feel better and be able to do more things.”