UIHC patient celebrates 25 years on dialysis


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For many patients, dialysis treatment can mean the beginning of the end.

Not Denny Burgess.

On Tuesday, roughly 30 of the 54-year-old’s friends, family, and physicians gathered at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics’ Center for Renal Dialysis to celebrate Burgess’s 25 years on nocturnal dialysis.

In 2008, Burgess’s treatment became more effective when he became the first of 11 patients to participate in a nocturnal dialysis at the UIHC. The hospital was one of eight in North America to conduct the study, which tested 87 patients.

“The support system is what keeps you going,” Burgess said, glancing around the room dotted with old family photographs, cake, and lemonade.

Burgess’s treatment began in 1986, when his kidneys began to fail. Doctors put him on dialysis, a method for removing waste products from the blood stream when kidneys begin to fail.

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Six years later, Burgess’s sister gave him a new kidney. But three days later, it ruptured, leaving him with none, forcing him to rely solely on dialysis.

Then, in 2008, Burgess signed onto the study into nocturnal hemodialysis, a more frequent, more intensive dialysis treatment, which cleans a patient’s blood while he or she sleeps.

Now, Burgess uses the system five nights a week. His wife, Marcia Burgess, spends 45 minutes setting up the machine, which takes blood from a needle Denny Burgess inserts into his forearm, cleans it and returns it to his body.

“This is 25 years of life he would not have had without dialysis,” Marcia Burgess said. “His motto is ‘I don’t have to be on dialysis; I get to be on dialysis.’ ”

Denny Burgess, who traveled to the UIHC from his home in Gilman, Iowa, credits his longevity to doctors at the UIHC and the dialysis treatments they provide. But his caretakers said he’s most responsible for his success.

“He’s a very positive person and is meticulous with his care,” said Dawn Allen, a nurse practitioner at the UIHC and one of Burgess’ earlier nurses.

Douglas Somers, his nephrologist, agreed.

“His numbers are always good. Phosphorous is always good. Potassium is always good,” Somers said. “His outlook is always good.”

According to John Stokes, the doctor in charge of the nocturnal dialysis study at the UIHC, around 150 patients receive dialysis treatment at the UIHC.

Though the study results are under review by a medical journal, Stokes said, he thinks nocturnal hemodialysis is a better treatment option than conventional dialysis, which involves four hour cycles, three to four times a week.

“The results are very promising,” Stokes said. “It looks like this is a really good thing.”

According to Dialysis Patients Inc., 2,550 Iowans receive dialysis treatment.

Chronic kidney disease arises for various reasons and affects 26 million Americans, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Every year in the United States, more than 485,000 receive dialysis or a transplant, according to the institute.

Staring at a sign that recognized his 25 years of survival, Burgess said he only has one goal for the future.

“Another 25 years,” he said and chuckled.

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