Diana VanHouten of Bowie is convinced that technology implemented at Wise Regional Health System six months ago saved the life of her longtime friend.Plagued with various ailments, Rudie Barnes has undergone aquapheresis therapy to treat fluid overload.
Barnes was admitted to the cardiac care unit of the Decatur hospital on Sept. 28 for complications from fourth-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“Her health problems have been ongoing for years, but not this bad,” VanHouten said. “She couldn’t get her breath, and things started going downhill from there.”
After two weeks, she was transferred to the ICU on Oct. 9 and began to show signs of bloating, a distressing symptom common in patients with heart failure. It can lead to a reduction in the amount of oxygen entering the blood causing and, consequently, shortness of breath and fatigue.
“Her body was puffing up because she was retaining fluids to a dangerous level,” VanHouten said. “It was putting pressure on her lungs, which she’s already having problems with. She didn’t have much hope. She was on a ventilator, and things just weren’t looking good.”
That’s when doctors advised aquapheresis for four days. Through a peripheral IV in the patient’s arm, the machine draws blood and filters out the fluid.
“It’s like dialysis but nothing to do with the kidneys,” VanHouten said.
The system allows doctors to specify and adjust the exact amount and rate of the fluid to be removed. And because it’s extracted gradually, it doesn’t significantly affect heart rate, blood pressure or the balance of electrolytes.
On average, the system removes eight ounces of water an hour or six liters a day. It reduces the time it takes to treat heart failure patients, according to a press release from the hospital, and it is more portable and less invasive than using a dialysis machine, which requires installing central access catheters into a major blood vessel.
“I couldn’t believe the visual difference I could see within two days,” VanHouten said. “I truly believe treating the swelling enabled her to strengthen up and attack the rest of her ailments. She’s not out of the woods at this point, but from Sept. 28 to today, she has made great strides. She has gotten out of bed and into a chair, the fluid is gone and she is off the ventilator and breathing on her own.”
Friday morning, she was moved out of ICU.
“That machine saved her life,” VanHouten said. “And I am amazed this little town has such incredible health care.”