Dialysis patients face challenge of getting treatment in winter weather

Vernon Hickerson
Vernon Hickerson
Barbara Sanders
Barbara Sanders
Dr. Lance Sloan
Dr. Lance Sloan

By Whitney Grunder - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – They depend on treatment three times a week to stay alive. When the temperatures drop and the roads become icy it becomes a challenge for dialysis patients to get the care they need.

In two weeks, Vernon Hickerson will find out if he's eligible for a kidney. He's not about to pass up that chance.

"It's dialysis or death so I don't miss because I want to live," said Hickerson.

To avoid the slick roads Vernon and his wife drove from Groveton yesterday and stayed overnight at the Joe W. Elliot House.

"Because of the weather, we're staying tonight also," he said.

79-year-old Barbara Sanders doesn't have to travel far for treatment. Still the cold conditions put her health at risk.

"You just have to be more careful with your fluid and your food and just be more careful with your activities," said Sanders.

Barbara's situation got scary when her power went out Wednesday.

"It came in like a straight wind. I never heard anything like it. It jarred me lose," said Sanders.

She kept warm with extra clothing, blankets, and hot chocolate.

"It's like stepping out into a snow bank. I'm a Texas girl and I don't like cold weather."

Since the beginning of the week, hospital staff have been preparing for the colder weather, rescheduling appointments and treatment to better accommodate their patients.

"We've cut the treatments a little bit short today just to allow people to get home sooner and particularly at the end of the day when things may ice up again," said Medical Director of the Henderson Dialysis Facility, Dr. Lance Sloan.

Sloan says some patients can't skip a treatment.

"Frequently, they won't make it until the next treatment and they'll wind up in the emergency room because of too much fluid in their body or too much potassium," he said.

Sloan says he won't let this happen. If road conditions worsen through the night the Center will open up for treatment on Sunday. For now patients should bundle up, and stay indoors.

Sloan says if you don't have a family member or friend to take you for treatment, you should call for an ambulance. You can also call your doctor to make sure treatment is necessary.

©2011 KTRE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.