Any remedy in sight?

When your kidneys are healthy, they clean your blood. They also make hormones that keep your bones strong and your blood healthy. When your kidneys fail, you need treatment to replace the work your kidneys used to do. Unless you have a kidney transplant, you will need a treatment called dialysis.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (U.S.A.), there are two main types of dialysis: haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Both types filter your blood to rid your body of harmful wastes, extra salt and water. Hemodialysis does that with a machine. Peritoneal dialysis uses the lining of your abdomen, called the peritoneal membrane, to filter your blood. Each type has both risks and benefits. They also require that you follow a special diet. Your doctor can help you decide the best type of dialysis for you.

This information about dialysis written in simple language, I found at the U.S. National Library of Science and National Institutes of Health Web site.

Well, I don’t remember having heard much about dialysis as a child, even during my growing-up years. Life then was of course less complicated. You didn’t hear much about diabetes, cancer or HIV/AIDS either. What was most life threatening then was the ‘heart attack’, and if men over 50 had chest pain or ‘angina pectoris’ like my father did, then they had reason to worry. Heart by-pass surgeries were not much heard of either. And, yes, most children were born ‘normally’; the Caesarian was resorted to only in case of a complication.

Today, it is a different world. If you don’t have diabetes, cancer, HIV, kidney problems, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, you are lucky! But those who are not, have to face up to the challenge, and many do. Like my relative who has and continues to show tremendous courage in undergoing treatment. It is people like her who inspire others – she smiles, does her domestic chores, takes time off to draw and paint, eats out, visits fairs, and generally is good as almost normal. Just like an aunt of mine who too underwent dialysis in her old age, but kept everybody in splits with her jokes, was always eager to gossip, talk about the movies, and, yes, travel! Amazing woman, my aunt! I have never known anyone yet with the kind of love for life she had.

Coming back to dialysis, I understand that it costs anywhere between Rs 900 and Rs 1300 for a single session of dialysis, which can last up to four or five hours. Many patients who visit hospitals for treatment need three or four sessions a week. They spend Rs 3000-4000 a week; Rs 12,000-Rs 16,000 a month! Plus medicines. An injection that is sometimes given every week costs Rs 1500… so, you can imagine the kind of money that has to be spent. Is there no way to make dialysis less expensive?

There is insurance, of course. But how many bother to take insurance? How many can afford the premiums? And even if you are insured, seeking reimbursement from the insurer or third party administrator (heard of TPAs?) can be an excruciatingly painful task. My good friend Hari has been fighting for almost a year to claim his rightful dues. He still hasn’t received full reimbursement. What is worst, he tells me, is that banks (he had taken the policy through an MNC bank), insurance companies and TPAs don’t give a damn about the you and your family are going through. They need ‘three working days’ to answer a simple query! And oftentimes, the answer when it comes, is in no way related to the question you had, which was simply: How long will you take to settle my claim or what is the document you would like me to furnish so that settlement can be hastened? So much for efficiency! What then is the remedy? I don’t see any in sight.


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