Northwest Kidney Centers celebrates 55th anniversary, launches oral history video collection

On Jan. 8, 1962, Northwest Kidney Centers opened its doors as the world’s first out-of-hospital dialysis program. The organization had one clinic — in the basement of Swedish Hospital’s Eklind Hall in Seattle — with just three beds. Now, 55 years later, our organization serves nearly 1,700 patients, at home, in 15 clinics and nine hospitals, and it provides more than 250,000 dialysis treatments each year.


Longtime members of our community memories of earlier days

It’s often said that it is people who make an organization great, and Northwest Kidney Centers is no exception. Many talented and dedicated people have helped shape our organization over the years, coming together to make sure people with kidney disease in our community receive the very best care. Watch the full oral history video series now to hear from them, or keep reading for links to a few of our favorites.


About the oral history video collection

Our new oral history video collection features 14 dedicated people — long-term staff members, patients, doctors and supporters who have helped make Northwest Kidney Centers what it is today.

JoAnn Albers

Hear JoAnn Albers, Northwest Kidney Centers’ first dialysis nurse, talk about how the organization was run when it opened in 1962, memorable patients and the most important thing nurses should consider when caring for dialysis patients.

JoAnn Albers, Northwest Kidney Centers’ first dialysis nurse, entertains a patient in Eklind Hall.

Jack Cole

Listen to Jack Cole talk about his work on Dr. Belding Scribner’s small research team to fine-tune the Scribner shunt, which made long-term dialysis possible. Jack tells how the team made quick adjustments on the fly to novel dialysis equipment, and the unusual career choice that led him to dialysis research in the first place.

Dr. Bob Hegstrom

Watch nephrologist Dr. Bob Hegstrom recall the troubled, sleepless nights that led to Dr. Belding Scribner’s breakthrough, and what it was like to treat Clyde Shields, the first patient on long-term dialysis.

The first three dialysis patients (Clyde Shields, Rolin Heming and Harvey Gentry) celebrate their 10th anniversary on dialysis in the early 1970s.
The first three dialysis patients (Clyde Shields, Rolin Heming and Harvey Gentry) celebrate their 10th anniversary on dialysis in the early 1970s.

Sharon Pahlka

Hear Sharon Pahlka, a life coach and motivational speaker who was on dialysis for 20 years, talk about doing dialysis at home while her 6-year-old son read and played beside her. She never let kidney failure dampen her appetite for adventure.

Susan Vukich

Listen to Susan Vukich talk about training in 1964 to give her daughter dialysis at home — something no parent had done before her. Her daughter, Caroline Helm, was the world’s first home dialysis patient.

Susan Vukich, right, learned how to give Caroline Helm, the first home dialysis patient, dialysis treatments at home in Seattle.
Susan Vukich, right, sets up equipment at home in Seattle for her daughter, Caroline Helm, the first home dialysis patient.


Celebrating our past and looking ahead to the future

A big thank you to everyone who shared their stories! Watch all videos in our oral history collection to learn more about changes over the decades and Northwest Kidney Centers’ one constant — putting the patient first.

“As we celebrate Northwest Kidney Centers’ 55 years of service, we thank all those who have trusted us to provide health care for them and we honor the leaders who preceded us,” said Joyce F. Jackson, president and CEO. “We are determined that coming decades will see breakthroughs in optimizing health, independence and quality of life for our patients, and for people with kidney disease across the country and around the world.”