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Patient with kidney disease feels hopeful at home during COVID-19 pandemic

For the last three years, Terry McCallum, 75, has been receiving dialysis treatments from the comfort of his home. When he initially considered the change from in-center hemodialysis (ICHD) to peritoneal dialysis (PD), it was because he was having a hard time adjusting to dialysis and experiencing low blood sugar. Now, amid a pandemic, his choice to treat at home has provided an unexpected benefit: the ability to shelter in place while managing his kidney disease.

The COVID-19 pandemic has swept through the country, forcing many Americans to take shelter within their homes. For several weeks, most states issued “stay at home” orders. Now, communities are beginning to reopen, but many local officials have continued to require social distancing and the use of masks in public spaces as a precaution to keep the virus from spreading.

For at-risk populations, such as those with kidney failure, continuing to limit exposure to the virus is essential. In fact, many health care professionals have petitioned at-risk patients to stay home, when possible.

“Being a PD patient is wonderful because I don’t have to travel outside of my home for treatment,” says McCallum, who receives dialysis through DaVita Kidney Care.

Though many patients with kidney failure choose to treat in dialysis centers where care team members are responsible for all aspects of patient care, some patients such as McCallum choose to take responsibility for their care at home. McCallum can connect remotely with his nephrologist and care team for support and check-ins at home, while he and his wife actively administer his PD treatments. He is comfortable with the trade-off because of the flexibility PD provides for his work and family life.

In addition, daily PD treatments more closely mimic natural kidney function, which work continuously to filter toxins from the blood. As such, PD is associated with lower infection rates and fewer hospitalizations.

Patients on home dialysis receive medical supplies at their home address, including masks needed to administer treatment safely. At his doctor’s recommendation, McCallum seamlessly changed his delivery schedule to plan for months indoors. He even coordinated with the delivery company to have his supplies dropped off at his preferred location.

“For me, there’s no risk in doing PD in the first place. I can run my business from my home, I have all the energy and I’m raring to go,” he says.

McCallum runs a local educational TV station and has recently become the resident teleconferencing expert in his home, spending some of his free time helping his wife set up online classes with her students. PD offers more flexibility for treatment schedules than ICHD, helping many people maintain their regular work schedule.

McCallum continues to pay monthly visits to his DaVita dialysis center for blood tests and to check in with his care team. Since the start of the pandemic, DaVita has implemented protocols to help ensure all patients and teammates remain safe and healthy, including evaluating everyone upon entry for possible COVID-19 exposure or symptoms and requiring all individuals to wear a mask at all times.

During a recent visit, McCallum elected to wait in his car to help maintain safe social distancing, and a DaVita teammate notified him when his doctor was ready to see him. “Everyone is doing the right stuff,” says McCallum of his DaVita care team.

Overall, McCallum continues to play an active role in his treatment by engaging with his doctor and care team. His ability to treat at home has helped him and his wife carry on with their daily activities, such as swooning over a new granddaughter, even if it’s over video chat.

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