“Dialysis is a dreary experience”

October 3, 2007 – Brownie Crawford, an old friend in Water Valley, who I haven’t seen for a long time sent me the “Sunday Business” section of the New York Times of Sept. 16, which featured an almost two page story on dialysis.

I’m not sure that I have seen Brownie since I went on dialysis four and a half years ago, but I was very glad to hear from him and very interested in the story on dialysis.
The story was really about a young man, Ken J. Thiry, who as president of a California based dialysis center chain named “DaVita,” has turned the chain into a profitable operation, primarily due to the charges for Epogen (EPO) used to treat anemia in dialysis patients, but the story also included several other bits of information most interesting to a dialysis patient.
The Oxford Center I go to belongs to Fresenius, a company that also manufactures hemodialysis machines. When I first began dialysis, the center belonged to Renal Care Group, that seemed to be headquartered in Nashville.
According to the Times article, DaVita “and its main competitor, Fresenius Medical Care, control about two-thirds of the dialysis business.”
There are four DaVita centers listed in South Mississippi, but more than two dozen in Tennessee and in Alabama. The one in Foley, Ala., I went to to when we were there for granddaughter Abby Rea’s wedding on the beach was a DaVita unit.
Most of the ones in this area of Mississippi now belong to Fresenius. According to a density map of the country, most dialysis patients are in the southeast.
The Times piece said Medicare and Congress are moving to separate Medicare reimbursement for EPO “to end the incentives to overuse the drug.” I have noticed on Medicare statements that about three fourths of the usual monthly billing is for EPO, but that Medicare and other insurance ordinarily pay only about one-fourth of the total amount billed.
“Dialysis is a dreary experience,” according to The Times, “in which people with failed kidneys sit for hours hooked up to machines to cleanse their blood...”
They got that right.
Other notes of the interest in the article include the information that there are some 350,000 dialysis patients in the country, which is rising about three percent a year due to a higher incidence of diabetes.
The article also reported that “more than one in five of the nation’s dialysis patients die each year—a rate as much as double that in Europe and Japan—for reasons that aren’t clear.”
•The last Monday in September it was payback time for Jo Ann having chauffeured me back and forth to dialysis for the past several years. I found a pair of back up keys (somehow I managed to lose my entire set of keys last week) for my now 13 year old Mercedes and drove her to a doctor’s appointment in Tupelo.
I had a meeting at Sanctuary Hospice House at six, so after her appointment was over before 2 p.m. we had several hours to fill.
First stop was Starbucks for muffins and frappucchino. Next was the car wash to get the cat tracks off the old car, which shined rather nicely after using my Rotary Club Master Card to get the works.
Then Jo Ann suggested we visit the old car museum in downtown Tupelo. I drove to where I thought it was and finally located it west of the Bancorp South Center.
We drove to the entrance only to discover it wasn’t open. My vintage car was the only one in sight.
There was a roadster styled mailbox on the street indicating we were on “Otis Drive,” which I assume was named for my old friend and former Mayor Larry Otis.
All we could see in the front door was a Coca Cola trailer of some sort and the front fender of what looked like a vintage roadster.
That done we drove by Reed’s where I found a black sports coat and a red and blue tie for the picture to be taken at Sanctuary House.
Then we went to Gumtree Bookstore, a part of Reed’s, to look for the new biography on former Gov. Bill Waller. I visit with his son, Supreme Court Justice Bill Jr., at the Neshoba County Fair every year, but we missed this year and he wrote me a letter, which also mentioned his father’s book. I felt like I ought to read the book before I wrote back.
Jo Ann also found a new one called FDR, more than 850 pages about one of my heroes, by Jean Edward Smith. The store manager, who is Jack Reed’s daughter, asked if I was interested in conspiracy books and handed me a book called “Alliance—The Inside story of How Roosevelt, Stalin & Churchill Won One War & Began Another.”
I had earlier pondered when she mentioned the car museum, how much it might cost for admission. As we left Reed’s she observed, “We would have saved a lot of money if the museum had been open.”
I acted like I didn’t hear her.

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