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“Summer Bird” Patient Receives Groundbreaking Dialysis Access Before Return to Hawaii

When Peter Song retired 20 years ago, he was also hit with a diagnosis of Type II diabetes. 

Song and his wife spent the next two decades summering in Homer Glen Illinois while volunteering and doing charitable work, and then wintering in Hawaii where they enjoyed swimming, water sports and relaxing on the beach. 

After the diabetes diagnosis, Song didn’t change his diet or follow his physician’s recommendations and now age 55, he readily admits, “I destroyed my own kidneys.” 

About three years ago, soon after his wife passed away, a cancerous tumor was discovered on his left renal gland and removed. It was then that Song realized his kidney function was precarious. In the past year, his glomerular filtration rate (GFR), already under the normal range, dropped over 20 points and, as Song says, “it just keeps going south.”

With hemodialysis on the horizon, Song needed an access created in his arm to allow the blood to travel to the dialysis machine for cleaning and back into his body. Song’s primary care physician referred him to Dr. Eugene Tanquilut, vascular surgeon at Vascular Specialists in Tinley Park, to create the access. 

“When I met Dr. T,” Song says, “we just hit it off. We are of similar heritage and were able to speak Tagalog together. We found out we grew up in the same place, Orland Park. Dr. T is just a genuine guy and a good doctor. We discussed all my access options and he told me I’m a good candidate for Ellipsys. He told me the procedure was new, but he explained it very well. I didn’t hesitate when I understood.”

“Peter’s quality of life depends upon his ability to get in the water and swim with almost no risk of infection at an access point. Even while undergoing dialysis, we want him to maintain his lifestyle of regular physical activity as much as possible,” says Tanquilut. “Peter was a perfect candidate for Ellipsys (Vascular Access System). His overall health is good, his veins are a good size, but his need for dialysis was becoming very urgent. Ellipsys is a strong solution for patients who have the potential to live decades longer, but need dialysis to filter out toxins and excess fluids.”

Ellipsys Vascular Access System is a completely new way to create an access system and Song’s early August procedure was also the first one Tanquilut performed. 

Using low power thermal energy, Tanquilut used the Ellipsys device to cut an opening in the vein and in the artery in Song’s arm. Tanquilut then fused the tissue of these blood vessels to create a permanent cross connection, accessible for dialysis. The minimally invasive procedure took about 30 minutes and does not require plastic tubes or sutures. Song woke up with a small adhesive bandage on his arm.

“At first I thought it was a no-go,” Song says. “It was just so fast. I was in recovery for under an hour and then it was about 20 minutes later, I was on my way home. It was a total of about 3 or 4 hours, I think.” 

Song has none of the scars or lumps typical of other dialysis accesses - his arm appears perfectly normal. 93% of Ellipsys patients rate their experience with the procedure as very good or excellent. 

Tanquilut says, “Ellipsys was the best choice for Peter. The procedure itself is safe and quick - about a third of the time of creating a traditional fistula. Recovery is faster, so Peter returned to normal activities in one day. He’ll be able to swim in the ocean just as he always has. The best part is that the Ellipsys access will be matured for dialysis to begin in 6 to 8 weeks. Traditional fistulas may take up to 16 weeks.”

Tanquilut notes that patients should seek a fellowship trained vascular and endovascular surgeons with questions about the Ellipsys access system. Vascular surgeons have the extensive training and specialized knowledge to effectively use the device and to identify patients who are right for the procedure. Most importantly, vascular specialists are able to manage all the risks associated with the procedure. 

Song says, “It’s a weird sensation to feel the “thrill” (blood flowing in his veins). Dr. T said my veins look good, with good circulation. I am hoping for the best, that my health improves and that pretty soon I am going into the water.” 

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