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Come to Festival of Wreaths ndash and support excellence in dialysis care

How are your kidneys? If they're healthy, you likely don't give these small, bean-shaped organs a second thought. Every minute of every day they automatically and expertly perform their job of cleaning toxins from the blood and eliminating excess fluids from the body.

How are your kidneys? If they're healthy, you likely don't give these small, bean-shaped organs a second thought. Every minute of every day they automatically and expertly perform their job of cleaning toxins from the blood and eliminating excess fluids from the body.

"Our kidneys are essential for life," says Thomas Ahlin, M.D., board-certified nephrologist (kidney specialist) who joined MeritCare in 1978 and serves as physician leader of MeritCare Kidney Services. "That's why people with kidney failure face enormous challenges every day of their lives. They have difficult special diets, take a myriad of pills and rely on dialysis machines to do what their kidneys can no longer do. I have great respect for these patients as they persevere through all the problems of end-stage kidney disease."

More than 100,000 new patients are diagnosed with kidney failure each year in the United States, with millions more at risk for developing chronic kidney disease. "We face an epidemic of kidney failure in our country due largely to the significant rise in diabetes. The need for services to meet the increasing demand is immense," says Dr. Ahlin.

Festival lends support
This year's Festival of Wreaths will help meet the need by raising funds for the purchase of additional state-of-the-art dialysis machines. "In hemodialysis, a process that involves filtering the blood, we try to accomplish in three to four hours what healthy kidneys do every minute of the day. That can have significant physiological effects, which is why state-of-the-art dialysis machines are so important," says Dr. Ahlin. "Today's machines have advanced features that help patients receive the most effective, comfortable, safe dialysis treatment possible, with fewer adverse effects. The new-generation technology can make a real difference in the dialysis experience."

MeritCare currently provides outpatient hemodialysis services to more than 300 patients in several locations throughout the region, including MeritCare South University in Fargo, Detroit Lakes, Red Lake, Morris, Bemidji and others. In a closely supervised setting, patients sit or recline for three to four hours, three times a week, while a specially trained nurse administers the treatment. "These patients spend several hours a week with us, often for the rest of their lives," says Dr. Ahlin. "Convenient services and a caring approach mean so much to them."

An event for all ages
Mark your calendar and plan now to attend this year's Festival of Wreaths: Nov. 15 - Nov. 17. A great way to usher in the holiday season, Festival of Wreaths offers something for everyone: dancing, gourmet dining, shopping for unique gift items, "Breakfast with Santa," and much more. For the complete schedule, call MeritCare Foundation at (701) 234-6620 or visit festivalofwreaths.meritcare.com.

"This is a significant event in our community and we're very honored to be part of it," says Dr. Ahlin. "The patients we serve are courageous people who deserve all the caring and support we can give."