What is it?

It is a process where a person is hooked up to a machine. Two tubes are attached to the person’s blood system. One is an in-tube and the other is an out-tube.
The blood is “cleaned” by the machine using a special filter called a dialyzer. It rids the body of harmful wastes, extra salt and fluids. It also controls blood pressure and helps your body keep the proper balance of chemicals such as potassium, sodium and chloride.


The person being treated has kidneys that have failed and thus can no longer clean the toxins and impurities from the blood. It happens for a variety of reasons. The two primary causes are diabetes (35.9 per cent) and blood pressure (28.8 per cent), according to the National Kidney and Urologie Diseases Information Clearinghouse. First Nations people are more at risk than the average population. In fact among the Pima Indians in the U.S., diabetic renal failure (diabetes leading to the need for hemodialysis) is the number-one cause of death!

Dr. Robert Harris of the Cree Health Board warns that with the rise in diabetes, we can see more people having to use hemodialysis. Fortunately Harris says Crees are not in the same category as the Pima Indians yet. He says preventive measures will help and hopes any leftover funding will be put to educational measures to prevent people from getting the complications of diabetes. In the Cree Nation 37 per cent of renal failure cases leading to hemodialysis was due to diabetes. In Chisasibi for 50 per cent of the people using hemodialysis, the cause was diabetes, and 17 per cent was due to high blood pressure.

How often?

Hemodialysis is usually done three times a week and treatment takes two to four hours.

Diet tips

A diet containing reduced amounts of protein may benefit people with kidney disease related to diabetes. Consume moderate amounts of protein. Ask your doctor about this. You should eat balanced amounts of food high in protein such as meat and chicken. The body uses meat protein easier than vegetable and grain protein. Of course fatty foods should be avoided.

As well salt is a problem. Don’t drink too much fluids, as they will cause the body tissues to swell which can cause high blood pressure and heart trouble.

Limit foods like milk, cheese, nuts, dried beans and soft drinks as they contain mineral phosphorous. Too much phosphorous causes calcium to be pulled from your bones.

Potassium is found in some salt substitutes, some fruits, vegetables, milk, chocolate and nuts. Too much or too little can be harmful to your heart.

Ask your doctor about what you eat, as they can give some good advice. In the long run with the right exercise regime you might find that you wouldn’t be giving up as much as you thought.

For those who aren’t on hemodialysis machines, remember exercise and a balanced diet can keep the complications at bay.