When Charlene Moyer learned her kidneys were failing, the last thing she wanted to do was give up her job.
“I got up one morning and thought I had a bug,” said Moyer, 60, of Centre Hall. “I went to work instead of staying home, but the longer I went on the sicker I got.”
Moyer, a school van driver for Penns Valley Area School District, said she’s lived her whole life in the Penns Valley area. When she wrapped up her driving for the day, she had some blood work done.
“I came home and later got a call saying, ‘You have to go to the hospital, your kidneys went south,’ ” she said.
That was almost seven years ago, she said. She’s been on kidney dialysis ever since and will be for life.
Dialysis is typically needed when about 90 percent of kidney function is lost, according to kidney.org. Dialysis keeps the body in balance by removing and preventing waste from building up in the body, keeping chemicals in the blood at safe levels and controlling blood pressure.
Moyer began dialysis at different treatment facilities in the county, most recently, she said, at Fresenius Kidney Care in State College. Sessions would run between 3 1/2 to 4 hours, three days a week, she said.
“I really liked it there,” she said, “but I had no time. I would bring my van back in the morning, go to dialysis, get back by 1:30 p.m. and have to get in the van and go. I didn’t have time to take my medicine or anything.”
So Fresenius was able to give her some freedom — now, according to physical therapy nurse Adam Powers, Moyer is the first person in Centre County to receive at-home hemodialysis. A machine set up in her own living room now provides her the treatment she needs while allowing her to continue her job and her life.
In hemodialysis, a hemodialyzer draws blood from the body and filters it, according to kidney.org. With the help of her daughter, Michelle Walker, Moyer is able to gain IV access through her arm to her personal hemodialyzer and continue her treatments on her own schedule.
Both Moyer and Walker received intensive training on how to use the equipment for about three weeks, Powers said. Moyer said she’s been using her at-home machine for about two weeks and, “When I’m done (for the day), I can just go.”
Treatments at home are more frequent during the week but shorter in duration, she said — about 2 1/2 hours, five days per week versus 4 hours, three days per week. About 70 liters of blood — the human body contains about 5 liters — is filtered during the course of a treatment, Powers said, meaning the blood is cleaned numerous times.
More treatments also mean fewer food restrictions and an potential better overall outcome, he said. At-home hemodialysis treatment is a growing field, he added, saying it gives the patient the freedom to set his or her own schedule and balance treatment with life.
Having a care partner there at all times is a requirement, Powers said, and Walker is by her mother’s side for the duration, starting the IVs, taking vital signs and drawing blood for monthly lab testing.
“I’m one who likes to work and I didn’t want to quit my job,” Moyer said. “It’s just more feasible to do this at the house.”