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Dialysis patients keeping busy - Medically Speaking, Volume One, Number Eleven, 5/8/14

Dialysis patients keeping busy

Dialysis patients at Blue Mountain Hospital seem to be feeling happier these days, thanks to the efforts of the unit's new Patient Support Specialist, Fila Harris.

Fila started her new job in March of this year, and she said she's really enjoying it. She said her job is to provide a more positive attitude for the patients in the dialysis unit. She provides activities for patients to do, during dialysis, and she assists with, and provides, information about any referrals for services that are available.

"I read articles on patient compliance and a positive attitude," Fila said recently. "Patients who are happier are more compliant with their treatment. It's common sense, you'd think, but there have been actual studies done to find out that it's common sense," she laugh-ed.

She said she started out with real simple things, like a 'Positive Thoughts Jar' consisting of little strips of paper with positive thoughts written on them. Patients can pull one out every day, and have a positive thought, she said. Then, she thought about laughter and how laughter has healing effects, so she made a little joke jar.

"I called it 'Joke in a Jar'. I went on line and found these non-controversial, clean, non-religious jokes and put the jokes on pieces of paper that patients can pull from the joke jar every day and get a little chuckle. They're kind of corny jokes," she added.

Next Fila sought out anyone else who was doing a similar job because; she said there weren't a lot of instructions about the position.

"I was told to create a positive attitude but there were no clear-cut instructions on how to do that, so I thought I'd call the National Kidney Foundation," she explained. "They directed me to a lady name Clara Cordova in Albuquerque. She travels from hospital to hospital to hospital and just drops off activities for patients. I guess she had some paint by numbers activities, and oil etching activities. One patient in dialysis, in Albuquerque, whose family owned a craft store that went bankrupt, unfortunately, donated a ton of stuff from the craft store and she'd passed it around for years and years. Pretty much everybody in their area had already done all the activities. So Clara had them in storage and she told me she would send them to me if I wanted them. I told her I wanted them. So we got some paint by numbers sets and we have them hanging in there."

According to Fila, the patients are enjoying these activities, but she said she wanted more activities, so she called her cousin, who owns a beading store in Albuquerque.

"I called to purchase stuff because I thought he would give me a discounted price," Fila explained. "But when he totaled it all up, and gave me a discounted price, it was more than I wanted to pay. So he asked me what I wanted to pay and I told him $50 bucks and he told me, 'Fila, I'd be better off to take the tax deduction.' I told him, 'Well I'm okay with that," she laughed.

Her cousin donated the supplies and took the tax deduction. So she got a lot of beading supplies for the dialysis unit.

"My cousin told me, 'Fila, next time you need supplies, call a different company,' But then he keeps sending me stuff," she said. "He went through his back room and found all these broken packages of beads and odds and ends he can't use, so he sent them off to me."

Fila's father, who owns Southwest Bingo Supplies, had some white tote bags that you can decorate with markers. So Fila got him to donate some of those and the patients are decorating their own tote bags. The San Juan Credit Union has donated pens. The Blanding Rotary Club has donated markers and pens to help provide dialysis patients with various activities.

"We've just done a lot of fun activities and I'm continuing to look for donations and find activities patients can do while they are in dialysis," she said. "Patients really enjoy them. A lot of things have been more feminine in nature, like kittens and things like that, and the men haven't shown a lot of interest. But I got a call from Clara and she told me she found a lot of wilderness etchings that have bears and wolves and things like that and those might appeal to the men a little more."

Some patients who actually prefer to sleep during dialysis have asked if they can take the crafts home because sometimes they are homebound and don't have a lot to do at home, Fila said. These things are donated for the dialysis patients, so some patients have taken them home and it gives them something to do at home.

"I try to get around and talk to each patient and ask how they're doing, get to know them and make them comfortable with me," she said. "I ask how their general life is going outside of dialysis, and see if there are any services or anything I can help with to improve the general quality of life for patients in dialysis. I'm enjoying it. I love the patients."

When she first started her position, she said one of the patients was having a bad day and she actually asked the nurse to call her because she wanted to talk to Fila.

"So we sat and talked and she told me she was feeling depressed. We talked a little bit and she felt better. And she actually asked for me so I felt I must be doing something right," Fila confided

Fila said she continues to look for activities dialysis patients can do, and for donations to help fund them. She reminds one of the characters in the old war movies, who were called upon to locate items their unit needed, but couldn't get through regular channels. They were affectionately called 'scroungers' but in the Blue Mountain Hospital Dialysis Unit she's called a Patient Support Specialist.

"I figure the worst thing people can say to me is no. People have told me no before and I survived," she laughed again.

Keep up the good work, Fila!

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