Masonic Foundation Of Ontario

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PIPELINE TO LIFE

"Jane" was hooked up to the machine -- again -- like a car getting its battery charged to run another two days. She accepts that she won't survive until a transplant becomes available.

Georgian North District had agonized over what project to pursue in the early 1990's. Representatives of the District were gathered in Tony Hope's living room in Elmvale. He was Past Master of Coronation Lodge No. 466 and current District Deputy Grand Master. During the discussion, someone by chance spotted an article in Barrie Examiner. Soldier's Hospital in Orillia was, by coincidence, trying to establish a dialysis service. It turned out that five of the six men in the room had a friend dependant on dialysis for survival. With no local facilities, that meant trips to Toronto or London. So the cause was adopted.

Mechanical Cleanser

A healthy kidney is an active filter that takes toxins out of the blood and fills the bladder. Kidney failure results in the body poisoning itself. The dialysis unit is a stopgap, not an artificial kidney, and it is definitely not portable. It's a stainless steel box with the bulk of kitchen refrigerator and with tubes, valves, dials, and jugs. Blood is detoured from the client's artery through a plastic tube and into the filter. The tube to the machine jumps slightly with every beat of the human pulse. The treated blood feeds back through another line into a vein. Almost all the client's blood is redirected and purified in a process that can take up to four hours. (The word "client" has replaced "patient.")

Probing for two blood vessels several times a week would be painful to the clients and difficult for the nurses, so plastic liners are fed into the client's vein and artery and attached to a permanent external fitting. When clients arrive they are plugged in and after the treatment they are capped off and sent home. This also reduces the possibility of infection.

Dialysis stations cost between $30,000 and $55,000, so the District aimed for two-year campaigns. The drive that started in 1995 had a $10,000 goal but was oversubscribed by a thousand dollars. Those funds helped out with the stations in Orillia.

Successful Drives

The 1997-1998 drive was for the General Marine Hospital in Collingwood, and that campaign with a goal of $12,000 brought in $15,000. There are now stations in Collingwood.

The District backed off their next two-year dialysis drive to participate in the Ontario Grand Lodge's special project, Help to Hear. They raise $39,000 for the Foundation project during 2000 and 2001. But that left them with no goal for 1999.

Something did turn up. In 1999, St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Phelpston was gutted by a fire. It was a century building and a regional landmark. The District raise $9,000 for the restoration fund . The cheque was presented in church following a Mass in Elmvale where the dislocated congregation was worshipping. Why that particular project? "We were helping people in our community. They're our neighbors."

Dialysis has been rejoined this year with a goal of $12,000 to assist the hospital in Penetanguishene. The facility has been changed to chronic and ambulatory care and the dialysis service needs $500,000 to double the number of stations. This entails moving out of the old maternity delivery room and into the now-vacant emergency ward, doubling the number of stations from four to eight, providing office space, physicians' consulting rooms, a meeting/education room, a lab, and maintenance shop for the dialysis units. It's a whole-community project.

A Community Necessity

All this is necessary because 16 clients use the four machines, some of them three to five times a week. An evening shift is necessary to meet the demand and even then another 19 cannot be accommodated and have to travel south for treatment. Four hours "on the box" and another two hours on the road is a hardship.

Brethren in the District have accepted invitations to visit the current Penetanguishene facility.

They were impressed by the informality. Everyone who was awake was willing to chat. Clients knit, do crossword puzzles, chat with visitors, or watch television sets attached to each station. All this while lounging back in large reclining chairs. Some just sleep. They all admit it's a boring procedure.

The first time he visited, Tony Hope was surprised to see an old drinking buddy on the machine. "We had a good chat," Tony recalls. "I told him I gave up drinking 20 years ago, and he told me he hadn't. He needs daily appointments." Clients are advised to avoid alcohol and diuretics.

"Jane" -- (remember her?) -- comes in three times weekly. But she's not tied to this one unit. She'll be going with her husband to see their daughter and grandchildren in Thunder Bay. This involves a session in Penetanguishene immediately before traveling, then regular appointments at the Lakehead to keep the same schedule. With planning it is possible.

All lodges in the district have unique ways of raising the funds. Coronation Lodge paid its members two-thirds the going labor rates for repairs being made on the temple; the cheques were endorsed back to the district project. Northern Light in Stayner sold tickets to a table lodge. Manito in Collingwood has a town crier degree. And the district has a golf tournament in June. David Walker of Caledonia Lodge in Midland is the District Treasurer. He points out that the Masonic Foundation added one thousand dollars to the final cheque.

Everyone but Jane -- Maybe

Every patient hooked up to the dialysis machine has hopes for a kidney transplant. Every patient except "Jane." Her doctor explained that by the time her name came to the top of the list and a match was found, she would probably be too old for a transplant. "So I have to accept it," she said.

The point wasn't lost on Tony Hope. The campaign for funds could be coupled with a parallel drive, one for donor cards. It's the next logical step, and maybe "Jane" can still get a chance.

Comments are Welcome

V.W. Bro. Ted Morris
76 Ballacaine Drive, Etobicoke, ON, M8Y 4B7
If you want to chat, call Ted at (416) 232 - 9545 or (705) 448 - 2574