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More than 2,400 people were diagnosed with total and permanent kidney failure in Maryland last year, according to the Mid-Atlantic Renal Coalition.

To learn moreThe MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute Clinic is located at the St. Mary’s Medical Center, 37767 Market Drive in Charlotte Hall. Call 202-444-3700, or visit www.medstargeorgetown.org/kidney.The clinic is a partnership with MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital.

In the tri-county region, at least 419 people were on dialysis and 126 of those patients were from St. Mary’s.

Now, there’s a clinic in Charlotte Hall where patients can be evaluated to see if kidney transplant — and getting off dialysis — is an option.

“It’s just the first step. It allows us to get the process started,” said Dr. Matthew Cooper, a transplant surgeon affiliated with the program. Patients work with specialists, take a series of tests and when the evaluation is complete, doctors determine if the patient is eligible for the kidney transplant waiting list.

The MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute Clinic in Charlotte Hall is offered in partnership with MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital. The clinic is located in the St. Mary’s Medical Center and is open the third Monday of every month.

Sherri Newman, director of physiology for MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, said she helped bring the clinic to Charlotte Hall. Newman is from Southern Maryland and formerly served as an administrator for transplant surgery in Georgetown.

It’s often more convenient for St. Mary’s, Charles and Calvert residents to travel to the Southern Maryland location, she said, rather driving an hour or more into the city. “I saw patients from our community trekking up the road every day, all day long,” Newman said. “I wanted to come back and provide services here.”

Family members supporting those patients often had to take off work for entire days, Newman said. And, the long trips were inconvenient for people already going through a difficult time.

Patients often spend several days a week, four hours a day on a machine that filters their blood.

“Dialysis is a temporary way of doing what the kidneys would do,” Cooper said. In time, the process can place added stress on the body and lead to heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

Major risks contributing to kidney disease are high blood pressure and diabetes. To help prevent diabetes and high blood pressure, Cooper said, people should exercise regularly and eat a heart-conscious diet, which includes avoiding excess sodium and paying attention to cholesterol levels.

One in eight people in Maryland either have kidney disease or knows someone who does, Cooper said. The condition is disproportionately high among African-Americans.

According to data from the Mid-Atlantic Renal Coalition, 467 kidney transplants were performed in Maryland last year, 162 in D.C., and 412 in Virginia. During that time, there were 1,464 deaths among dialysis patients in Maryland, compared to 1,936 in Virginia and 281 in D.C.

nclark@somdnews.com