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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 10, 2001

Improved dialysis treatment offered in Pearl City

By James Gonser
Advertiser Central Bureau

PEARL CITY — St. Francis Medical Center opened its $2 million dialysis facility last month in the Pearlridge Center to expand services to a growing number of people suffering from kidney disease and to save time for Central and Leeward O'ahu patients who had to drive into town for treatment.

Pamela Ah Quin from Mililani takes advantage of the $2 million dialysis facility at St. Francis Medical Center in the Pearlridge Center. Ah Quin spends about 13 hours a week hooked up to a dialysis machine offering a new kind of therapy.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

St. Francis is also using the latest dialytic therapy for its patients in the 48-station, 22,000-square-foot facility. Called Unique Renal Replacement Therapy, the new technology involves the use of a filter membrane with larger pores than commonly used filters. That membrane takes larger molecules out of the blood that may have higher toxicity, according to Dr. Jared Sugihara, Renal Institute of the Pacific medical director .

"People with kidney disease have a number of toxins in their system that are normally eliminated by the kidney," Sugihara said. "By placing them on this kind of filter it removes a wider spectrum of potential toxins."

The new machines also have the capability of immediately assessing the effectiveness of the treatment rather than sending blood to a lab for analysis and using "ultra-pure" water in the blood cleaning process.

"It's not that other dialysis treatments are inadequate," Sugihara said. "This is further refining the process."

Data collected on the effectiveness of the treatment will be used to determine the value of this new therapy and how it can be applied to other St. Francis dialysis facilities throughout the state. Located next to Longs Drugs, the site was formerly occupied by Woolworth and becomes the 11th renal institute facility in Hawaii.

Three times a week, kidney disease patients must sit for several hours while hooked up to a dialysis machine to have their blood cleaned.

Twenty-four patients are being treated at the Pearlridge facility, while another 60 patients who live in the Aiea, Pearl City and Salt Lake areas are expected to join them soon. When fully operational, it will be staffed by about 30 nurses and technicians.

Mililani resident Pamela Ah Quin, 35, spends about 13 hours every week hooked up to the new machine. To pass the time, she reads and watches television in the big blue chairs that look like a combination between plush first-class airplane seats and dentist's chairs with wires and tubes everywhere.

Ah Quin, who started dialysis Dec. 12, says the new treatment has helped her regain her energy.

"With the new treatment I feel better and I get more things done," Ah Quin said. "I'm getting my life back now. I go out more and have much more energy."

There are 1,568 patients on kidney dialysis in Hawai'i, including 553 whose kidneys failed last year, according to the National Kidney Foundation of Hawai'i.

Kidney failure in Hawai'i is 30 percent above the national average and is especially high among Native Hawaiian, Japanese and Filipino ethnic groups, said Julie Schweitzer, associate executive director of the Kidney Foundation.

Schweitzer said 66 percent of the Hawaiians on dialysis are there as a result of diabetes. Among the Japanese Americans on dialysis, 54 percent have diabetes. And for the Filipino population it's 40 percent.

The Kidney Foundation reports 40,000 diagnosed cases of diabetes in Hawai'i; there are probably another 40,000 who have it and don't know.

Maureen Naganuma, manager of the Pearlridge dialysis facility, has been with the St. Francis program since 1967, when it was just one room at the Liliha Street hospital.

"It has been the mission and vision of Franciscan sisters to provide this treatment," Naganuma said. "We have more than 1,000 patients today and are the largest hospital-based dialysis program in the country."

Robert Littlejohn of Mililani carves a ko'oko'o or cane while having his blood cleaned. Littlejohn, 41, has diabetes and started dialysis in August.

Nurses say sometimes he brings his guitar or ukulele and plays for the other patients. "Music helps heal, too," Littlejohn said.