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Miel Alanzalon: Kidney disease doesn’t pause because of COVID-19

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February 19, 2021 - Hospital Family Story, Stories

COVID-19 has forced many things to pause, but in Osler’s Renal Program, the crucial work of delivering life-saving dialysis continues. For patients living with kidney disease, this treatment is vital for survival so nothing—not even a global pandemic—can halt the service.

Dialysis patients spend approximately four hours, several times a week receiving the treatment, which filters toxins from the body when the kidneys are too damaged to do the work. For registered nurse Miel Alanzalon, working in the renal unit at Etobicoke General is especially rewarding.

“As a dialysis nurse, you’re making a pledge to be there for the patients who really need us,” he says. “The treatment that they are receiving cannot be postponed, whether there's a calamity or there’s a pandemic—they have to go on.”

Because of the nature of the treatment, dialysis nurses like Miel Alanzalon undergo additional training to gain the expertise required to deliver care. So when COVID-19 required a number of staff from the unit to quarantine, resulting in a staffing shortage, the team rallied to ensure life-saving care continued.

“Our work is a bit specialized so we can’t get just any staff from other units to help out. We are limited to our own fleet of nurses so people had to pick up a lot of shifts. It was physically and mentally tiring, but the staff bound together to get us through that very big challenge,” he says. “I myself was in quarantine and a lot of the other staff had to pick up the slack because shifts needed to be filled. When it was my turn, I also gave my time and effort to fill the vacancies. I’m proud of the camaraderie that was shown during those times to help our patients through the most challenging parts of the pandemic.”

UNEXPECTED POSITIVE OUTCOMES

Miel says some of those challenges brought about unexpected positive outcomes.

“The whole pandemic changed how we went to work, how we conducted ourselves. Interactions were limited because of social distancing and also kept brief to limit contact, so we learned how to be creative and how to communicate better—how to make the most of the time given for our patients and for our own staff,” he says. “It's a multi-disciplinary team, and it has allowed us to be more close-knit with doing our work, to help the patient achieve the health goals that are set for them.”

Miel was initially attracted to nursing because it seemed like a solid career choice. Today, he’s driven by the opportunity to make a real difference for his patients.

“When you get immersed into the role it gets more fulfilling to be able to provide help to those who are vulnerable and getting into hemodialysis provided more opportunity to impact the lives of patients,” he says. “The patients that we see depend on the treatment to live. Without it they would succumb to the disease. This job helps them live longer, until they can get a kidney transplant.

“At the end of the shift you feel tired, physically and mentally, but you always have this strong sense of accomplishment that makes you proud and that makes you want to go back the next day to fight another battle.”