YOUR HEALTH: Saving you before your body shuts down

Doctors are now diagnosing kidney shutdown early. It's saving more lives

TAVARES, Fla. — In about 20% of patients who come into a hospital intensive care unit, the kidneys suddenly lose the ability to eliminate waste and clean the blood, which can lead to permanent damage or death.

Catching that domino effect early is saving lives.  

That includes Bonnie Corley.

Her husband remembers the day last spring when he saw her doing some work in her yard.

"Next thing I heard was some kind of screaming and groaning, and she'd come out here and was rolling on the floor," John Corley remembered.

An emergency crew raced Bonnie to the hospital where her systems began to shut down. 

The next day, doctors put her on a ventilator to give her body a break. 

Critical care specialist Dr. Louis Guzzi knew without immediate intervention, Bonnie's kidneys would be at risk.

"As I would say time for the kidneys is really money for the kidneys," explained Dr. Guzzi.

"I need to get those kidneys reprofused as soon as possible before they start shutting down."

Dr. Guzzi and his colleagues used a new approach to determine patient risk of acute kidney failure. 

First, they used a device called Flowtrack to measure fluids passing through the system. 

At the same time, a blood test called NephroCheck lets doctors know if the kidneys are in trouble. 

Dr. Guzzi says the very early intervention is making a difference.

"Our rate here was about 9.8% to 9.9% renal failure," he added.  

"We're 2.1% right now."

After 30 days in a medically-induced coma, doctors slowly brought Bonnie back.

"I missed my birthday, Mother's Day, my third son's birthday," she said

Now, she's back to visit the medical team who treated her, as she continues to get stronger.

"There's been some good things that's happened," said her husband John.

"We're closer. We spend more time together. I think you tell me you love me every once in a while."

"I do," she admitted.  "I do."

Despite Bonnie's health scare, she no longer needs dialysis. 

Dr. Guzzi and his colleagues named the protocol after the hospital where they work, AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares, Florida. 

A paper on the success of the "Waterman Protocol" was published in a major medical journal in 2019.

Since that time, Dr. Guzzi said as many as two dozen other hospitals have begun using the Waterman Protocol on their patients.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.