Energy crisis may hit at-home dialysis patients

STORY: Dawn White says she fears that the worsening crisis over home energy bills in the UK - part of the wider energy problems across Europe - could mean she'll no longer be able to afford a life-saving treatment.

She uses this dialysis machine five days a week to pump clean blood around her body, replacing the work her kidneys would normally do.

Dawn is 59 years old and lives in south-east England. She says her condition would be fatal without intensive use of the machine, which already costs about 200 pounds a month to run. That's roughly $238, and doesn't include costs of heating and other regular home appliances.

"My kidneys don't work, so they build up a lot of creatine. Creatine will kill you. So without my machine five times a week, 20 hours, I will die."

"Every time they put the prices up, although I can reduce what we use in the house to almost nothing, I cannot adjust what this uses. This is standard, this is it, and there's no way of saving on this."

The energy crisis has hit all of Europe, but the UK has been hit particularly hard. An average household bill of 1,277 pounds last year will rocket to more than 3,500 this year - over $4,100 - according to a forecasting agency called Cornwall Insight.

Dawn, who has renal failure, is one of 5,000 people who dialyse at home, out of 30,000 people on dialysis around the country.

"We're having shorter showers because it's an electric shower. We don't have the tele (television) on for a long time. We all sit in one room in the evening, therefore it's only one light as opposed to all the lights on around the house. We've cut back as much as we can."

The government's promised action to help those facing the predicament, saying the about 6 million disabled people in Britain would receive a one-off 150 pound Cost of Living payment next month. That's on top of other financial help with rising energy bills.

If the couple cannot keep up with the higher charges, Dawn will have to receive treatment at the local hospital, which only has capacity to treat her for 12 hours a week.

She said that would leave her feeling less well, reduce her independence, and potentially make her less viable for a potentially life-changing transplant should her condition deteriorate.