Dialysis machines a first for remote First Nation community

Create: 02/20/2016 - 04:02

Steven Chapman, 52 from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation, has for the past one and a half years suffered from kidney failure. For this period of time due to the remoteness of his community he has had to travel to Thunder Bay so as to be able to obtain his dialysis treatment. Now thanks to the perseverance of fellow KI citizens all this has changed, and no longer will he have to take journeys that take him away from home, family and friends.

February 11, 2016 was a milestone both in Chapman’s life and a first for a remote northern community when he became the owner of his own dialysis machine, which he set up himself in an area that is part of the KI Medical Centre after undergoing training in Thunder Bay.

Peter Nanakeesic (Operations and Maintenance Manager) and his brother Randy (Band Councillor) were instrumental in acquiring not only the initial machine, but also a spare one in case of a malfunction from the Northern Ontario Renal Network they spoke with a Wawatay reporter about their achievement.

PN: “Well it started with my brother and I talking about it, then we brought it to Council to try and go for obtaining a dialysis unit for KI. At first it was a slow process and it was three of us who started the legwork, assessing and getting information from dialysis clinics about how we could go about obtaining dialysis if possible. Myself and Randy worked on the project and we had the first meeting almost two years ago in February and we arranged a meeting with the doctors in Thunder Bay but we were unable to travel due to weather conditions, however during that time we were able to have teleconferences over the phone finding out info, what else is possible, what else we could do so we were not able to travel but later that December we were able to do a conference in the boardroom with a couple more councillors present and that was after so many conferences over the phone discussing why we were going for dialysis we were then told it is possible.”

RN: “But at that time we were kind of iffy, because of the things we were running into in Manitoba but then we got into talking about the reason behind it. Back in 2001 our brother first went out to Thunder Bay for his dialysis treatment and then after that he was there for about six years and then he passed away. In the fall of 2008 our youngest sister was also struggling and she tried home dialysis, but that didn’t work out so she got medivaced out and then shortly after that she passed away in July 2010. When she was in Thunder Bay, we had tried to get the medical services to help us but ran into a few complications with the ambulance, with everything with the prices we had to pay, also the relocating and all the expenses that came with that but the way it was possible for them was at times we were able to offer limited help but most of the time they had to use their own resources so with all of this put together we started looking into who could help us and then we did acquire an engineer to help us work things out and he also made some contacts on his own and it came together at that conference and then when it looked like it wasn’t going to happen, we brought up the history of why it was really important to have it here because of the hardships that people go through in relocating and also the disease and that’s how it came about.”

PN: "Just to elaborate on the hardships that people go through. Moving or relocating is very costly and leaving all the family members behind, breaking that attachment also the isolation in the big city without their family members makes a big impact on the treatment itself. Having gone through this with our siblings we realized the biggest thing to face out there was a gap with attachment of family members so we pushed for this home dialysis to be initiated.”

RN: "There were two Councils involved, the previous one and the present one, both were involved in getting this project where it is right now, former Chief Donny (Morris) and current Chief James (Cutfeet) were of immense help there were also a lot of other people that were involved in making this a reality today though its still in the trial basis of six months, then come August we will be looking at a grand opening that will coincide with the Homecoming to be held then and hopefully by that time the physicians will have made that decision.”

The day started with setting up the machine Chapman watched by onlookers and a medical team from Thunder Bay who included Paul Watson, Director of the Thunder Bay Renal Unit, also a neurologist and kidney doctor. He explained the need for two machines. “Well he is in a remote location, so instead of making him fly back to Thunder Bay when his machine breaks down, we are going to give him another machine as a back up, so if another patient ever came here then we would have one back up for the two of them so we would have three machines it’s just a bit of an extra step. Most patients on Dialysis at home only have one machine so that’s about the only different thing we are doing for him. He will come in three times a week for four hours each time, however he can come as often as he wants. The person who is able to to do his own dialysis is a very special person so it’s not necessarily for everyone.”

The trial run was a huge success and a delighted Chapman commented. “I have been on dialysis for a year and a half because of kidney failure, but now I can move back to the community it helps me move back home and helps me clean my blood and helps me clear the liquids in my body. I was in Thunder Bay for a year now and I was training on this machine, well it took me four months, usually it takes two months but because there were some things that needed to be worked on I stated there longer. I use this machine three times a week, four hours a day although today I only did three hours. I live in KI and I feel it’s the same as being in Thunder Bay and I will feel more active here than there. In Thunder Bay I was getting lazy and vacant.”

Newly elected Deputy Chief Angus Mackay who was present at the trial run shared, “We feel very fortunate to have this in our community, it’s been a few years in the process and it’s been in development and people have worked a lot and it’s going to be good for the community. I also think that it could expand if we get the government agencies on board to help if it works out successfully I think it could be very good for the surrounding communities too but that would be way into the future, but it’s exciting, very exciting this morning with what happened. There was a core of four or five involved in setting this up and it was a long process, it took along time for the funding and the proposal and I am very grateful for the work that they did,” he said.

Date Published: 
Saturday, February 20, 2016 - 04:00