Kidneys are unique filters of poisons and toxins produced in the body. They help to regulate salt levels, fluid levels, and various chemicals that do other things in the body. Need blood? kidneys can signal for new cells to be produced. Too much water from those super big gulps? Kidneys help to flush it out of the body avoiding drowning in the process. The nice thing about kidneys is they are working on these issues 24 hours a day. Without them the toxins of cellular operation would soon poison the person. Death is not pleasant.
Kidneys can be damaged, diseased, or imperfect. When this is the case, the only cure is dialysis. The potions, nostrums, and remedies of every quack persuasion will not replace a pair of functioning kidneys. When these organs fail there is little time to fix the problem.
Until the 1950s kidney failure was a major cause of death for a variety of people. A seventh-grader’s science class can easily shows how too much salt, too much liquid, and a host of other imbalances inhibit the smooth flow of water and waste through membranes can fail. Kidneys are able to manage this complex process with ease. With the development of dialysis it has become possible to replace kidney function with an artificial machine. Instead of having days to live, there are years of joy, trepidation, and curiosity in the life ahead.
Training, understanding, and effort makes it possible to enjoy every aspect of life that a person without kidney disease can enjoy. Thankfully, Aroostook County has a unit that can help. The County Dialysis Unit is dedicated solely to treating kidney failure. Through the hard work of a variety of individuals and organizations the facility has been able to build a clientele from the entire county. Located in the North Street Medical complex it serves the needs of all dialysis patients in northern Maine.
This week will be the last week that the clinic stays in its current facility. As with an old home there are closets, cupboards, chairs and stuff that now take more space. In short the clinic has grown bigger than its britches. For the past few months workers have been busy building a new site to handle the increasing load of patients needing the services.
May 16 is the day for our new move in. The new facility will be larger, have more bells and whistles and better lighting. It will still have the same team of dedicated professionals working to keep alive dreams of a better day.
Kidneys are important. Be thankful that the ones you have work. It can be lonely having to sacrifice one life to live another day. Visitors are few but they are welcome all the same. It looks scary to see the tubes, vials and needles that are needed to survive. Thanks to this effort though all of us are able to participate in making this county a better place.
Orpheus Allison is a photojournalist living in The County who graduated from UMPI and earned a master of liberal arts degree from the University of North Carolina. He began his journalism career at WAGM television later working in many different areas of the US. After 20 years of television he changed careers and taught in China and Korea.