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Life-saving procedure made easier at MGH

July 6, 2010
By CHRISTOPHER DIEM Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - Pat Clinker of Munising has to drive to Marquette three days a week for hemodialysis at Marquette General Hospital.

The process takes about three and a half hours at a time. Now, with the help of charitable donations, Clinker can sit comfortably while undergoing treatment.

MGH recently purchased five new hemodialysis machines and 15 new reclining chairs with funds donated by the community.

Article Photos

Pat Clinker of Munising undergoes dialysis treatment at Marquette General Hospital recently. The hemodialysis unit recently bought 15 new chairs and five new dialysis units thanks to contributions from the community. (Journal photo by Christopher Diem)

"Those chairs were very uncomfortable," Clinker said about the old chairs. "These here are fine."

Andrea Wills, hemodialysis nurse manager, said the old hemodialysis units would sometimes fail and it took about half an hour for hospital staff to tear down and set up a different piece of equipment.

"These patients dialyze anywhere from three to five hours, three times a week, so it's the equivalent of having a part time job for them," she said. "So they're on the machine 15 to 20 hours a week and an extra half hour is significant. It's really frustrating. Their life is tied down to that."

Wills said the new machines are far less likely to breakdown and have extra monitoring capabilities that have been helpful in treating patients.

In addition to being more comfortable than the old ones, the new chairs have an emergency position they can be folded to in case a patient needs emergency attention.

"Their heart could stop, We've had code situations here. There's always a risk to any medical procedure when patients are quite ill. There's heart disease and diabetes and hypertension," Wills said.

The hemodialysis units filter the blood, remove waste products and excess fluid from patients whose kidneys have failed. Without treatment, patients risk death - usually within a two week period, Wills said.

She said patients have responded favorably to the new chairs and equipment.

The Friends of Dialysis Awareness Initiative began in 2007 to address the need for the new units and chairs. The effort raised more than $56,000 in its first five months for the new dialysis units. There were a large number of memorial gifts in memory of loved ones treated for dialysis at MGH. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans agreed to match $1 for every $4 raised and contributed over $8,000. In addition, a Marquette couple donated cash and stock to the Marquette General Foundation to go toward the units.

Over $30,000 was needed for the 15 new chairs. The Marquette West Rotary, Marquette Noon Rotary, Ishpeming Rotary and others donated money toward this effort.

In total, nearly $100,000 was raised in little more than two years.

"I'm very thankful for the tremendous charitable support for a project that will certainly benefit from philanthropic dollars and really the campaign in itself really was fun to be a part of," said Jim LaJoie, planned giving and major gifts manager for the Marquette General Foundation. "It was a joy to be able to raise money for a cause that's needed. Dialysis is a life saving procedure."

Even though the primary fundraising for the hemodialysis unit has concluded, there are still four older machines in service and Wills said those and other machines will need to be replaced.

"It would be great to have the same product line throughout," Wills said. "Right now we have to use two different sets of blood tubings on them. We have to train staff on two different types of equipment. The outcome on the machines are equal but the better monitoring skills with the new equipment is a big feature."

She said typical usefulness of a dialysis machine is about five years. The oldest machine in the department is from 1997. In addition, the department bought several machines in 2003 and those are due to be replaced.

LaJoie said people interested in supporting the dialysis unit or any other facet of Marquette General Health System should go to

He thanked the community for its support.

"It shows that charitable gifts can really make a difference in hospitals and now with the success of this fundraising initiative we launched into our capital campaign and that charitable spirit and that willingness to provide a charitable gift to our regional medical center is taking shape again and we're very thankful for that," he said.

Christopher Diem can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. His e-mail address is



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