The Weekly Quill — Dollar Dialysis

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A Global Economy Incapable of Regulating Itself

Define “vital.” Without a heart, we are soulless beings as the blood circulating in our bodies is arrested. Without a mind, we lack vision and the capacity to envision; we are bereft of life on an existential level. But what of those bean-shaped organs, the kidneys? After all, the normal lives lived by kidney donors shows that we only really need one of them. How vital can they be? It would seem the answer is, “very” if you’re on the receiving end of that donation. The very idea of “waste” implies it isn’t healthy if it sticks around. And while we know the body is 90% water, crossing north of that threshold isn’t feasible either. Additionally, kidneys are essential when children are growing as they are the organ tasked with the production of the all-important Vitamin D and the building of strong bones. Call them a multivariate factory as kidneys also control the production of red blood cells. So, yes. They are vital.Before 1945, the loss of kidney function promised a painful demise. Building on his predecessors’ innovations, the Netherlands’ Willem Kolff was the first to buy victims of kidney failure the gift of time. In 1913, three scientists “dialyzed” anesthetized animals by directing their blood outside the body and through tubes of semipermeable membranes made from Collodion, a material based on cellulose. It wasn’t until the summer of 1924 that Georg Haas first performed a dialysis procedure on a human being. The catch was that the patient and subsequent ones still died. The inhibitor: Hirudin, an anticoagulant element in the saliva of leeches which led to complications arising from humans being allergic to different species’ bodily fluids, which was not adequately purified.

Heparin, the universal anticoagulant in mammals, eventually fixed this; it’s still used today. But it wasn’t until Kolff altered the configuration and makeup of the “dialyzer” that a 67-year-old patient with acute kidney failure was given additional years to live. According to Fresenius Medical Care, “Kolff’s rotating drum kidney used membranous tubes made from a new cellulose-based material known as cellophane that was actually used in the packaging of food. During the treatment, the blood-filled tubes were wrapped around a wooden drum that rotated through an electrolyte solution known as ‘dialysate.’ As the membranous tubes passed through the bath, the laws of physics caused the uremic toxins to pass into this rinsing liquid.”

If such a thing as an economics M.D. existed, they’d likely prescribe dollar dialysis for the world’s financial system. While 80% of global transactions take place in greenbacks, it appears that an excess of enriched dollars has overwhelmed the patient’s ability to be cleansed within by getting them out.