11/08/2012 12:33 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Kidney Dialysis: One More Disruption From Superstorm Sandy


By Stephanie Sy

A week after Hurricane Sandy hit, 56-year-old Lenny Garofalo of Floral Park, New York, is still without electricity. For him, the stakes are high. Garofalo relies on a home hemodialysis machine because he has advanced kidney disease. Like everything in his house the night of the storm, his life-sustaining machine went dark. Without properly functioning kidneys, he needs hemodialysis to filter the naturally occurring toxins in his body. After 48 hours without dialysis, most patients are at serious risk of potentially fatal complications.

Although Lenny had purchased a generator for this kind of emergency, Sandy struck before he had it hooked up.

"My first thought was, where am I going to go, what am I going to do?" said Garofalo.

More than 40,000 patients are on dialysis in the greater New York City area. Even an ordinary blackout is a potential risk, but long-term power outages like this one can be life-threatening if patients don't have back-up power or can't get to dialysis centers. Fortunately, Garofalo lived within several miles of the Queens Village Dialysis Center and received treatment there until he could get his home generator working.

His twin brother, Tommy, was also by his side the whole time, making sure he didn't skip more than one treatment. At-home hemodialysis requires a trained caretaker, and Tommy spent a month learning the ins and outs of the NxStage hemodialysis machine and the process, which can take up to four hours, six days a week.

A week since Sandy struck, Lenny Garofalo is once again getting dialysis treatment in the comfort of his own home. He encourages other home dialysis patients to make sure they have a trusted caretaker -- and a (working) generator -- in case of emergencies like the superstorm.

"Kidney Dialysis: One More Disruption From Hurricane Sandy" originally appeared on Everyday Health.