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For patients with end-stage kidney disease who are waiting for a kidney transplant, dialysis is a life-enhancing option that temporarily removes waste from the body, regulates the levels of certain chemicals in your blood, and controls blood pressure when the kidneys can’t.

Since dialysis must be done a few times each week, a natural disaster or emergency occurs can make it difficult to receive treatment. Any interruption to your dialysis schedule may be life-threatening, so it is extremely important to have an emergency plan.

Depending on where you live, some natural disasters or emergencies may be more common than others. It is important to be prepared for anything — your health depends on it.

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Planning Ahead for Dialysis Needs

The first step is ensuring that everyone has easy access to the information they need to help you. Start by putting together a list of:

  • Emergency phone numbers — the American Red Cross and the local emergency services line (911 in most of the United States and Canada, but it will vary in other countries).
  • Your medical information — name of and contact information for your doctors and your dialysis unit, your dialysis provider’s emergency number. You should also include the names and phone numbers for local hospitals, your pharmacy, and insurance carriers.
  • Your patient information — copies of your dialysis prescription and insurance cards (in case you need to go to a different dialysis unit or hospital for treatment).
  • Your medicines — the names of all prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines you take, how much you take, the times of day when you take the medicine, and any special instructions (e.g., with or without food).

Having your medical history and treatment procedure information on hand can help a hospital or dialysis center properly treat you as quickly as possible.

Diet and Meal Planning for Delayed Dialysis

If you must miss dialysis, waste can build up to an unsafe level in your blood. When you cannot receive dialysis treatment, you must follow a strict diet to minimize waste buildup.

The National Kidney Foundation has a three-day diet plan to follow when you know dialysis will be delayed. This is not a substitute for dialysis but can help you stay as healthy as possible until you can start treatment again. Do everything you can to find a dialysis center where you can undergo treatment within three days. If you can’t, repeat the diet plan.

Guidelines for Different Types of Dialysis Patients

For in-center hemodialysis patients:

  • Make sure your dialysis center has your contact information to keep you updated on the status of the dialysis center.
  • Keep a list of dialysis units in your area in case yours is unable to accommodate you.

For home hemodialysis patients:

  • Keep a flashlight and batteries near your dialysis machine.
  • Keep a two-week stock of supplies at all times.

For chronic ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD) patients:

  • If you use an ultraviolet device, always keep the battery charged.
  • Keep peritoneal dialysis supplies to last 5 to 7 days in your home.

For continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis (CCPD) patients:

  • Consider purchasing a generator if you use a cycler.
  • Keep CCPD supplies to last 5 to 7 days in your home.

All dialysis patients should contact their water and power providers ahead of time to register for special priority to restore services in an emergency. Even if you are an in-center dialysis patient, it may be necessary to treat yourself at home.

Creating a strategy will help you feel more secure in your ability to handle an emergency. These tips may not be ideal for every patient, so make sure to communicate with your doctor when creating your plan to ensure you are doing what is best for you.

About Transplant Services

For more than four decades, UPMC Transplant Services has been a leader in organ transplantation. Our clinicians have performed more than 20,000 organ transplant procedures, making UPMC one of the foremost organ transplant centers in the world. We are home to some of the world’s foremost transplant experts and take on some of the most challenging cases. Through research, we have developed new therapies that provide our patients better outcomes — so organ recipients can enjoy better health with fewer restrictions. Above all, we are committed to providing compassionate, complete care that can change – and save – our patients’ lives. Visit our website to find a provider near you.