"Heather's case shows that women who have kidney failure can become pregnant and successfully give birth to healthy babies, despite needing dialysis," said Dr. Martin Schreiber, a nephrologist at The Cleveland Clinic who has been treating Heather since December.
According to Dr. Schreiber, it is rare for dialysis patients to deliver babies because of the stress a pregnant woman's body faces when relying on outside methods to flush toxins from the system. Pregnant women on dialysis often experience high blood toxin levels, anemia and hypertension. Unfortunately, babies carried by these women may suffer from growth retardation, often resulting in a baby being still born or miscarried.
"The key in Heather's case is that we were able to initiate dialysis very smoothly, and not disrupt her pregnancy by causing a great deal of metabolic stress for either mother or baby," Dr. Schreiber said. "Additionally, the type of treatment we prescribed -- daily, at-home dialysis using the HomeChoice™ Automated Peritoneal Dialysis System by Baxter Healthcare Corporation -- provided Heather with flexibility and convenience. It decreased some of the emotional and physical stress that comes with dialysis."
"When my doctor told me that I was going to begin dialysis, I was scared. But it turned out to be really easy and it didn't hurt," Heather said.
Approximately 220,000 individuals in the United States rely on kidney dialysis, the process of cleansing or filtering the blood, to help keep them alive after their kidneys have failed. There are two kinds of dialysis treatments -- hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.
In hemodialysis, the patient's blood is withdrawn through a needle and cleansed outside of the body in an "artificial kidney machine." This procedure usually takes place in a medical facility and is done for four to six hours at a time, two to three times a week. Peritoneal dialysis, which is done by the patient at home, uses the body's peritoneal membrane (abdominal cavity) as a filter while it infuses and drains dialysis solution.
"We selected Baxter's Home-Choice™ System because of the flexibility and freedom it offered Heather. It provided overnight dialysis and was easy for Heather and her family to set up and use, enabling Heather to maintain a more normal and comfortable lifestyle," Dr. Schreiber said.
Following the birth of Heather's daughter, the HomeChoice™ system also played a key role in helping Heather to maintain her health and prepare her body for another significant medical occurrence -- kidney transplant surgery. While only 27 percent of patients with kidney disease in the U.S. receive transplants, Heather beat the odds again. In mid-August, she underwent successful transplant surgery, receiving a kidney from her own mother.