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Quiet comfort: Hospital’s dialysis unit completes move to new location

Ronald Ospby receives a blood-cleansing treatment in the new dialysis unit of CHI St. Joseph’s Health on Friday. The unit opened it’s doors to patients on May 7 after moving out of the old hospital. (Press Photo by Abby Kessler)

The new dialysis unit at CHI St. Joseph’s Health in Dickinson is quiet.

The gentle hum of machines and the occasional beeping of a monitor that completes the process are present, but muted.

“Well it’s quieter,” said dialysis patient David Paasch of the new space. “And there’s natural light through the skylights that we didn’t have in the old place.”

Medical staff administered the last dialysis treatment in the old hospital building on the evening of May 6 and were fully moved into the new facility and treating patients early May 7.

Paasch has been receiving dialysis treatment for 22 years and is the clinic’s longest continuous patient.

He and 27 others receive treatment at the unit on a rotating schedule with each patient receiving the blood-cleansing regime three times a week.

Because patients receive dialysis on a regular basis, the move between the two facilities had to be seamless and performed quickly.

“We had to have all hands on deck,” said Ardel Engelhard, director of renal services at CHI St. Alexius Hospital in Bismarck.

Engelhard said the move was hectic, but with a large team was completed with few flaws.

Everything from dialysis machines to Band-Aids were transferred from one space to the other.

She said while the new building is “very aesthetically pleasing” and the operation is run similarly to how it did in the old space.

“We are using the same equipment and staff,” Engelhard said. “And there is a lot of good in that continuity.”

Registered Nurse LuAnn Berger said the new space was an adjustment for the staff because they had to relearn where everything was located. But now that they have had time to organize, it’s an improvement.

She said the space accommodates the same amount of patients, but it’s newer, brighter and slightly bigger.

Berger said the unit is in the process of obtaining an eighth station so they are able to provide services to four extra patients.

“Population growth in the area has increased demand,” Berger said.

As it stands, the unit is currently operating at full capacity treating seven patients at a time, 14 per day and 28 total.

Paasch is one of those patients, arriving three times a week for treatment. On Friday morning, he sat with a long needle poking into his arm that pumps blood out of his body, cleanses it from toxins and waste, and pushes it back in. It’s a process that mimics what a healthy kidney constantly performs.

“What we are doing in four hours, a normal kidney does in 24 hours,” Berger said. “Normal kidneys are constantly working all day long. But this machine can do that in four hours.”

After more than two decades, Paasch said he still hasn’t become fully accustomed to the regularity of the process, though he has learned to cope with the side effects of the treatment.

“You never get used to dialysis. It disrupts your life so much that I don’t know how anyone could get used to it,” he said. “My wife and I haven’t been on a vacation in 22 years.”

But he said that isn’t true for all patients, as treatment has become more widespread and therefore easier to access. He has even heard of patients going on cruises and receiving treatment while aboard.

The process is common and hasn’t changed much during Paasch’s two-decade stretch of treatment.

Berger said there are less complications now than there once was due to advancements in technology. But the overall process is largely the same.

Treatment is still four hours, three days a week.

Paasch tries to continue working on his farm north of Dickinson to keep an overall sense of self worth, but medical issues and side effects have affected his ability to do so.

He said he tries to keep a positive perspective on the situation, though he admits it’s not ideal.

On Friday, Berger stood near the machine where Paasch was receiving treatment, the two speaking in low voices, giving each other a hard time and laughing about it.

They know each other well, Berger said.

Seeing each other three times a week will do that.

Kessler is a reporter at The Press. Contact her at 701-456-1208.