By Gregory Mignano
When Derek Mattox learned in 2003 that his kidneys were failing and he’d need dialysis to stay alive he knew his life was about to change big-time.
What the Oakland resident, who was 39 at the time, couldn’t foresee was that 12 years later he’d be healthy, happy and using an increasingly popular dialysis treatment option to live a life as close to normal as he could imagine: nocturnal dialysis.
More than 26 million Americans – approximately eight percent of the population – suffer from Chronic Kidney Disease and many will one day face kidney failure and need to chart a course through dialysis treatment.
Diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease can put people at an increased risk for kidney disease, and African Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders and American Indians also face increased risk. African-Americans like Mattox, for instance, comprise more than 32 percent of all Americans receiving dialysis, despite representing just 13% of the total population.
Mattox, now 51, took treatment seriously from the very start. “It was like a new job and a new life for me, so I researched it, found out what was going on,” he says. “I knew my disease would take my life if I didn’t follow the directions.”
The traditional and predominantly prescribed course of treatment for kidney failure, known in medical terms as End Stage Renal Disease, requires that patients go to a center several mornings or afternoons per week for four hours at a time.
There, a blood-filtering machine removes waste and excess fluid from their blood – a task their kidneys can no longer do. Juggling a job, family and other responsibilities and activities with dialysis during daylight hours is no easy feat.
While Mattox managed to go back to school and work in various special education and childhood development roles while undergoing daytime dialysis for many years, it was tough. A few years ago, he decided to try nocturnal dialysis, spending three nights each week receiving overnight treatment.
When Satellite Healthcare launched a nocturnal program at its Oakland Dialysis Center at Telegraph and 33rd Street in 2013, Mattox was among its first patients.
The not-for-profit organization, founded more than 40 years ago, has been expanding its program in response to increased demand, now offering nocturnal dialysis in many of its centers across California.
Patients opting for nocturnal dialysis swap three nights of at-home sleep each week for overnight treatment. Mattox lives just 25 minutes on foot from the Oakland center and he usually walks as part of his regular exercise regime, carrying a sandwich, two blankets, a small pillow and a pair of headphones in his tote bag.
Arriving in the early evening, he is greeted by the friendly staff, settles into a specialized treatment chair, begins dialyzing, and watches cable TV and movies on his personal television until he falls asleep. Six to eight hours after arriving, he packs up his things and walks back home, refreshed.
Nocturnal dialysis is not always an easy sell – perhaps explaining why the number of patients taking advantage of it, while growing, remains low.
A common response from patients when hearing about the treatment is, “What? I need to give up a few nights of sleep in my own bed? Why on earth would I do that?”
But patients who try it out tend to see positive benefits very quickly, because receiving slower, steadier dialysis over a longer period of time puts less stress on their hearts and on their bodies in general. Also, up to 30 percent more toxins are removed from patients’ blood during nocturnal dialysis than during the faster daytime treatments.
“One of the things patients tell us is that with shorter daytime dialysis, they have a longer recovery time afterward,” says Sheila Doss-McQuitt Director of Clinical Programs and Research at Satellite Healthcare. “Patients receiving the longer, overnight treatment report their recovery time is greatly shortened. They can often just get up and go, to do whatever they want immediately following treatment.”
“I tell other patients all the time: nocturnal gives me the ability to have a life. I really feel the difference in my body than when I was on daytime dialysis,” attests Mattox. “When I first began it was an adjustment with the sleep, but I was able to rest a bit when I got home in the morning and then go to work feeling rejuvenated, with extra energy. No one I’ve worked for has even known I’m on dialysis – they can’t tell, and I don’t tell them.”
Published studies, and the Oakland patients’ own lab results, illustrate nocturnal’s benefits. Receiving slower, steadier dialysis over a longer period of time puts less stress on the heart.
An additional 30 percent more toxins are removed from patients’ blood than during the faster daytime treatments.
As a result, many patients with heart disease and hypertension – very common ailments – can decrease or even eliminate some medications. And, like Mattox, they tend to find they have more energy.
Mattox plans to begin looking for a new job soon, but for now he’s enjoying a hiatus from work. He can frequently be found walking his dog around Lake Merritt, checking out movies, reading, and simply, as he puts it, “getting out” as much as he can during the day.
He believes one of the most important things dialysis patients can do for themselves is to maintain a sense of empowerment. “Don’t let dialysis take control of you – you take control of it. Learn as much about dialysis as you can so you can have the best treatment possible.
For me, that’s nocturnal. Also, don’t depend on the dialysis machine to take care of your body – you’ve got to take care of it by eating the right foods and doing the right things. The machine is just an additional tool.”
In his role as Area Manager at Satellite Healthcare, Gregory Mignano oversees the Satellite Healthcare’s Oakland dialysis center. For more information visit SatelliteHealth.com.