Eight years, eight months and still counting-- that's how long Larry Cheney has been coming in to Fletcher Allen Health Care for kidney dialysis. His four-hour visits three times a week clean the toxins and extra fluid from his blood. It's a process his only remaining kidney can't do.
"It was stressful in the beginning," Cheney said.
But Cheney says he's been in good hands. Despite thousands of needles and dozens of new patients coming and going, he's never once had an infection.
"And they just started a new process a couple of weeks ago where they can't clean our area until we are actually out of here-- to bring somebody else in. So, I think it's really good here, and I've never known of any infections," he said.
That new step is one of several measures Fletcher Allen has initiated at its six dialysis centers over the last few years. Infections in these already compromised patients used to be commonplace-- about 10-12 a month for roughly 300 on dialysis. Now, the number stands at one.
"What is it we've done to prevent these? We've brought a lot of evidence-based practice to the bedside and made sure that our nurses and technicians are doing them 100 percent of the time," said Sally Hess of infection control at FAHC.
That includes standardizing central line dressing changes, using a special antiseptic called chlorhexidine, new hand hygiene and glove changes, catheter disinfection and patient education.
The infection prevention procedures used here at Fletcher Allen's Joy Drive Dialysis Center, and around the state, are now benefiting dialysis patients nationwide, as well.
"Our participation in the Centers for Disease Control's Dialysis Blood Stream Infection Collaborative has led to other facilities across the country using these interventions that we trialed and put in place," Hess said.
In fact, the CDC has included Fletcher Allen's prevention measures in its official list of guidelines. They're critically important because infections are the second leading cause of death in dialysis patients.
"We stand between the patients and death really. We are that barrier and when we do our job right, we keep the patients alive. It's our duty to do it right," said Peggy Bushey of FAHC's dialysis center.
That's a fact not lost on patients like Larry Cheney. New measures at infection prevention making a difference between life and death for those on dialysis.
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