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Traveling medical professional treats 100+ dialysis patients during power outages

Despite the power outages, Laredo Medical Center treated more than 100 dialysis patients.
Published: Feb. 26, 2021 at 11:40 PM CST
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - Included in the millions of Texans who lost power last week were hospitals, clinics and dialysis treatment centers.

All medical needs are important, but for dialysis patients specifically, they could land in the emergency room if they miss a treatment.

Despite the power outages, Laredo Medical Center treated more than 100 dialysis patients.

One medical professional, who came from out of town, shares her experience on the frontline.

“I’m thinking to myself, ‘Oh my god. I have to get there,’” said Mari Spinelli, a medical device trainer with Outset Medical.

Prior to the unusually cold weather and power outages in Texas, Spinelli had plans to come to Laredo.

Her goal to train nurses at LMC on how to use an at-home dialysis treatment machine called “Tablo” were a bit derailed the day she arrived.

On Saturday, Feb.13, her flight leaving New Mexico was cancelled. She managed to find another flight for Sunday, Feb. 14.

But a winter storm was coming.

“I got my rental car, and the rental guy said, ‘Get to Laredo before 9. It’s going to get bad.’ Nobody was on the road. Just cars everywhere on the side of the road,” she said.

By early Monday morning, millions of Texans lost power.

“I get up the next day. Get (to LMC) by 6 a.m. We have no power. We’re only on auxiliary power,” Spinelli said. “And the next two days the power is on and off. We have no food. There’s no power down here in the cafeteria.”

In addition to training nurses, she and the LMC team treated more than 100 dialysis patients in less than a week, a relatively high number for their typical 350 to 400 treatments a month.

Dialysis patients require treatment since their kidneys don’t function properly to get rid of the toxins and wastes in the body.

“We had a huge influx of patients from other clinics nearby because they had no water or power. Luckily here at Laredo Medical Center we were able to keep water on even though we had no heat on the floor. We were freezing. There was no power in certain areas. But we were able to keep the machines going.”

Most days, Spinelli and the medical staff would get to the hospital before 6 a.m. and wouldn’t leave until 10 at night.

“More and more patients kept coming and kept coming. We were working very long hours to make sure those patients got treated with the emergency care they needed,” she said.

One of the nurses said to her: “After all the issues we had this week, he said if you wouldn’t have been here, that would’ve been the worst of it. It really touched my heart that what I do here really makes a difference.”

Spinelli left Laredo on Friday, but the dialysis treatments at LMC will of course continue.

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