‘We’re there to celebrate their lives’

Matthew Strother News editor

November 21, 2013

In the DaVita Troup County Dialysis Center there is a wall with plaques honoring the patients over the years who have died, or even received a kidney transplant and no longer need to visit the clinic. Director Cathy Phillips knows all of them, and she can recollect each and the different challenges they faced.

“I’ve had people on the machines for more than 30 years,” Phillips said. “They become a second family. When we lose a patient, whether they are lucky and get a transplant, or they die, it’s hard. We go through a hard time too.”

Dialysis is a process where someone suffering from kidney failure is hooked up to a machine that cleans their blood. Kidneys are the body’s natural filter, and without them, it’s necessary for a person to generally receive three dialysis treatments per week for three and a half hours each session for the rest of their life, or until they receive a kidney transplant.

Phillips began working at the dialysis clinic in 1997, when it was under West Georgia Health. The following year, the center began a memorial for patients it had lost. After several years, the service became a holiday season staple, and this year the clinic hosts its 15th service with the Circle of Life Celebration.

“When we get together for the memorial services, it’s really an opportunity for families to get together and receive support of other family members,” said Kateri Simmons, licensed clinical social worker for the facility.

Many people who are receiving dialysis treatment suffer from multiple medical problems, and often succumb to heart failure. The toxins that don’t get filtered out of their blood also can cause problems with other organs.

This year, the clinic lost its fewest patients to death at seven. It currently serves about 90 people, Simmons said.

Phillips said the service is an opportunity to celebrate the lives of those who have left the clinic, whether through death or by receiving a transplant. The memorial wall and ceremony also honor staff and volunteers who have passed away.

As many as 150 people have come to the service at the clinic in the past.

“It’s very uplifting,” Phillips said. “We’re there to celebrate their lives.”

Family members will light candles and place bells on a Christmas tree in memory of their lost loved ones.

This year’s service will feature a patient speaker and church choir performance.

“We have families that come back year to year,” Phillips said. “What it does (for them) is bring closure. Some bring their loved ones here for years, then it stops. It’s hard for them to come here after a loved one dies.

“Coming to the service, families come together, hug, share tears, and laugh about their loved one with staff and family. We come together to bring closure to the staff and the family on a person’s life. I look forward to it every year.”

The Circle of Life Celebration is Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. at the Davita Troup County Dialysis Center, 140 Glenn Bass Road. For more information, call 706-882-0193.