A new life-saving service is now open in Carthage.

A new life-saving service is now open in Carthage.

Aleta Greathouse, M.D., Leslie (Paugh) Hamlett, D.O., and Mateen Nagaria, M.D., are the three doctors that rotate between the Joplin and Carthage locations for local kidney dialysis out-patients. In April, the Heartland Kidney Center opened its doors to the community to provide a service that patients would otherwise have to drive to Joplin, Butler, Monett or Pittsburg, Kan.

For people in this stage of renal disease, the options are dialysis or transplant – otherwise the outcome would be fatal. At an arranged time between the two shifts treatments, patients plan three days of their week to get ready, travel to the dialysis location, go through the (about) three-hour treatment and then travel home.

“Then I'm worth nothing when I get home,” said Doris Wheat, 76, of Carthage as she gave a smile from the dialysis chair.

On Friday, Wheat had driven one-and-a-half miles to receive the service, which was quite a change from the 18-mile drive to Joplin she has done for the past six years.

“It's tiring,” she said, describing the process. “It is hard after a while. But this being in Carthage is one good thing about it. The people are very nice; you get to know one another. They're all nice.”

The center currently cares for 25 patients; all coming from the surrounding areas of Carthage, Lamar, Golden City, Jasper and Sarcoxie, just to name a few.

Greathouse said some months of the year patients express concern over driving weather conditions, and that the new Carthage location takes stress away from receiving the necessary treatment. Also contributing to the center's addition, the Joplin location was full, and patients were unable to choose convenient times to take their treatments. Therefore, adding the Carthage location was a win-win for both traveling patients and staff.

“My partners felt this was worthwhile to better serve the community,” Greathouse said, who is a Carl Junction native. “We are attached to this area and try to take care of our people.”

For Butch Cossel, 61, of Golden City, the Carthage location is his first dialysis experience.

“I love coming here,” he said. “It's so comfortable – Tammy, Lisa and Gerra are wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. I've never had dialysis before, and I didn't even know my kidneys were going out. Back in 2010, I went to the hospital and they told me I needed this – I had no idea what it all meant. But, they gave me a list of doctors, and I chose Dr. Hamlett. If anyone had to go through this, I would say, 'go to Carthage.'”

The center also gives patients the home dialysis option where the physicians train patients and spouses, and the equipment is delivered to the patient's home. Greathouse said this option is more appealing, especially for those who work. However, for the patients that visit the center three days a week, Greathouse said the doctors and nurses get attached to the faces behind the cause.

“Having it here is exciting for me because I'm seeing friends of my parents and grandparents,” Hamlett said, who is a Carthage native. “My dad gets excited and proud when he drives by.”

Hamlett agreed completely.

“The bond between patients and kidney doctors is special because we see them all the time,” Hamlett said. “They are at the sickest time of their lives, and they see us every week – the nurses and doctors become like extended family. It's a unique relationship between us and the patients.”

Tammy Beaver, RN, facility manager, is all smiles when her patients come in the door.

“It is such a blessing to care for them,” she said of the patients. “It's our job to make sure they feel comfortable and welcome. I absolutely love my job. I've been doing this since '96.”