Homemade Dialysis Machine Keeps Man Alive for 13 Years

A man from Nanjing, China, has recently made headlines after it was discovered he built his own dialysis machine, and managed to keep himself alive for 13 years, after he couldn’t afford to receive proper hospital care.

A research fro 2008, shows only one in ten Chinese people can afford regular dialysis treatment, but one man refused to give in to his illness simply because he couldn’t pay the high hospital costs. Hu Songwen was studying to become a meteorologist when he was diagnosed with renal failure, in 1993. From that point on, he was forced to visit the hospital every six days to have his blood cleaned through dialysis, a treatment that cost him around $80 per visit. He hand his family managed to support the costs for six years, until all their savings were exhausted. That’s when he decided to build his own dialysis machine, using only a textbook, kitchen equipment and medical supplies. “When I told the doctors what I was doing, they said I was crazy,” he said, but his homemade contraption has kept him alive for the last 13 years, at a fraction of the hospital costs. He spent an initial $800 on a pump, after failed attempts to make his own, and now each dialysis session costs him around $10 in filters and chemicals. “The most important part of the machine is the filter, and I can use each one eight times. A new filter costs $16, while a proper medical machine can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds” Hu said.

Photo: China Photo Press

“As long as you have a high school degree, understand the principle of dialysis, follow the operational instructions and keep a close watch during the process, nothing should go wrong,” Hu told the Southern Weekly newspaper. He did mention two of his friends have died after using similar homemade dialysis machines, but that has never deterred him from continuing the self-administered treatment. His invention works as an external kidney. It’s made up of two compartments separated by a membrane filter that allows only some particles to get through  The machine is connected to his arm via a couple of tubes; the bad blood goes out through one tube, and enters his body through the other, after it was filtered. The dialysis fluid by mixing potassium chloride, sodium chloride and sodium hydrogen carbonate (bicarbonate) into purified water. Doctors have warned Hu about the risk of serious infection and other complications by not using sterile water, but the man who still lives in his mother’s home says his options are limited.

Photo: China Photo Press

Thanks to his story getting published in the press, Hu Songwen was offered medical aid by the Chinese Government, but although this financial aid would bring the cost of hospital treatment down to his current spending, the man says he is still reluctant to switch because the nearest hospital is too far away, and very crowded.

Sources: The Telegraph, China Daily

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