For more than half a century, nonprofit Northwest Kidney Centers has worked to improve the lives of people with kidney disease. Besides treating patients at 15 dialysis centers, it helps 300 people give themselves dialysis at home. The organization also holds contracts to provide dialysis in nine local hospitals. It was the first dialysis provider in the country to be Joint Commission-certified as a health care staffing agency. More than 80 percent of King and Clallam County residents in need of dialysis turn to Northwest Kidney Centers.
Chronic kidney failure was once fatal in every case. That changed in 1960, with an invention at the University of Washington that made long-term, repeated dialysis possible. Two years later, Northwest Kidney Centers opened its doors as the first dialysis organization in the world. The original dialysis unit, in a Swedish Hospital nurses’ dorm, treated just nine patients. Today, Northwest Kidney Centers serves 1,600 people.
Northwest Kidney Centers’ programs go well beyond dialysis. The organization provides free kidney health classes open to the community, operates a specialized renal pharmacy and promotes transplant — in concert with local transplant centers — so effectively that its patients are 80 percent more likely to receive a new kidney than others across the country, the organization cites.
In 2008, Northwest Kidney Centers joined with UW Medicine to found the Kidney Research Institute. With more than 60 studies underway, its investigators are working to find new ways to detect and treat kidney disease.
Although 1 in 10 adult Americans has kidney disease, most don’t know it. Diabetes and hypertension are the biggest causes. Kidney disease often doesn’t show symptoms until late stages. If it progresses to chronic kidney failure, the patient can survive only with regular dialysis treatments – three times a week or more – or a transplant.
March is National Kidney Month, and today is World Kidney Day. Washington has much to be proud of with the great work being done in our state to improve kidney health. (Tim Pfarr)