Sept. 13, 2006 — Red balloons cover the walls of Juan F. Luis Hospital's nephrology unit — a striking difference to the beige walls and somber environment of most hospitals. Once through the colorfully painted doors of the wing, greetings and smiles are easily given.
Nephrology nurses, who care for patients with kidney disease, have a very stressful, yet rewarding duty; and the hospital's administration wants their sacrifice to be noted.
This week the hospital is joining with the American Nephrology Nurses Association to recognize the unit's nurses during Nephrology Nurses Week, which began Sept. 10.
"We are honoring the clinical staff of the unit," said JFLH Administrator of Hemo-Dialysis Carmen Heywood. The clinical staff includes nurses, technicians, and secretaries.
The unit, Heywood said, faces the same staff shortages as any other unit in the hospital. "This unit may be the most challenging part of the hospital," she said, adding that the nurses "are dealing with the same patients every day until they receive a transplant — or for their lifetime."
The unit, according to Heywood, has more male than female patients, most of whom are over the age of 40. High blood pressure and diabetes are main causes of renal, or kidney, failure in most people.
For the nurses and staff of the wing, the patients become like family.
Licensed Practical Nurse Myra Daniels has been working in the unit for more than four years. "I did my internship here in 2000 and liked it," she said. Daniels chose to enter the unit when she graduated. "You get to know the patients," she said, "You get very close."
The patients in the unit come in three times per week for about three to four hours of treatment. Nurses set up the dialysis machines, prep the medicines and connect patients to the machines. The machine removes their blood, cleans it in the same manner as a kidney and pumps clean blood back into their system. Daniels explained some patients may be on the machine longer because their blood may need more cleaning.
According to Heywood, the Legislature has approved funding for seven new dialysis machines to be received at the end of the month. The fourteen stations in the unit are filled all day. Inside the unit, the patients quietly receive their treatments, passing the time by eating, sleeping, watching TV or talking to the nurses.
The patients are participating in the week's festivities also. "We are giving the patients grab bags, one per day," said Heywood.
Sitting up and smiling brightly, patient Irma Garcia talked about winning the door prize on Wednesday. "They surprised me," she said. Garcia's high blood pressure caused her renal failure, and the mother of three has been fighting the disease for three years. She used to feel trapped, she said, sitting for three hours, three times a week attached to a dialysis machine. "I feel much better now," she said. "One thing I don't complain about is the nurses," she said.
Nephrology Nurses Week continues until Sept. 16.
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