March is national kidney awareness month. Pierron said DaVita is trying to encourage people to go online to take a quick survey and to help promote better eating habits.

The first thing someone may notice upon arrival at DaVita Kidney Care in Prairieville, the latest DaVita opening in the area, is that there are plenty empty chairs. The specialty clinic held an open house on March 14 in order to help spread the word about their open space.

Pepino Thomas was on hand to discuss his condition that requires a dialysis treatment three-days-a-week. The process takes about four hours. Thomas, who works in janitorial for EBR has been treated with dialysis for nearly 18 years due to hypertension--high blood pressure. He's originally from New Orleans, but resides in Baton Rouge since Hurricane Katrina. He said it is quicker for him to shoot down Airline from Baton Rouge for his treatment at the Prairieville location.

He shared that he was the recipient of a kidney transplant from his cousin that caused him pneumonia. That resulted in the loss of the transplanted kidney.

"It's a life-change," Thomas said. "You gotta change your eating habits, learn how to take your medicine when you should take it. If I would've known better I would've been taking my blood pressure."

He explained that many dialysis patients do not urinate anymore. This means that the body cannot naturally expel waste. He said that he learned what he needs to do, and it was not what he was doing. He added that he's seen the technology get better through the years, and that it has become more comfortable. He noted the main room at DaVita Prairieville is never full.

"They're having an open house now," he said. "They're trying to get new clients in here. When I'm here by myself, it's hard to talk to myself," he laughed. "The staff here is great."

He can speak from experience. He used to be a dialysis tech. Furthermore, Thomas's treatment is covered by Medicaid-Medicare 100 percent.

"In the beginning [dialysis] kind of frightened me, but it's a part of life," he said. "Hopefully I can get a transplant, and it'll be alright."

He said the hardest thing is that he cannot travel often. It can be difficult to get into different clinics, and things can become complicated very quickly. The idea of a full clinic is surprising, considering he is the only person in the chair at DaVita Prairieville at the time of the interview.

"If you miss a day, you're risking filling up with fluid," he said. "Then it pulls against your heart. A nurse down in New Orleans told me you have to take care of 'dat' motor."

Moving on, Eleesha Pierron is a facility administrator and registered nurse at DaVita Prairieville.

"A supervisor," Pierron laughs. "We've been open to Medicaid-Medicare patients since October 2017. We're open Monday, Wednesday and Friday currently. We have 17 chairs with a isolation room. We start about 6 a.m. and we're open until about 4 p.m."

Coincidentally, Pierron has been working in dialysis for 18 years, for as long as Thomas has received treatment. She said she has been working in dialysis her whole career.

"One of the two main reasons people get on dialysis is because of hypertension or high blood pressure. And uncontrolled diabetes. That will definitely kill your kidneys. A lot of people don't even know they are going into kidney failure. It takes years. There are things to slow it down. Diet is a big thing."

March is national kidney awareness month. Pierron said DaVita is trying to encourage people to go online to take a quick survey and to help promote better eating habits.

"As you know, we live in Louisiana," she said.

Lastly, DaVita currently offers a risk-factor quiz online. Check it out here.