Canada's first hemodialysis treatment for patients with chronic renal failure was performed at the University of Alberta Hospital fifty years ago this week.

Dr. Ray Ulan was part of the team that started the program in 1962 after visiting doctors in Seattle who were using new technology to treat patients with chronic renal failure.

"We started with no patients, and now there's over 2,000 patients in this program, both with dialysis and transplant," Ulan said on Wednesday. "Worldwide, there's over 2 million people on dialysis and with a functioning transplant."


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Wayne Galaas started receiving dialysis at the hospital in 1967. For three years, Galaas traveled from Camrose to Edmonton several times a week for the 12-hour treatments.

In 1970, Galaas became the first Alberta patient taught to do dialysis at home.

"I think it was about two weeks of training and home I went," he said. "It was wonderful. It really was .. it was a whole new way of life for the both of us. We did more travelling, and so on, back in those days with the home dialysis machine."

Galaas received a kidney transplant in 1978. He credits both his wife Marlene and Dr. Ulan for helping him in those early days with the home dialysis machine.

"One night, I remember I had trouble and couldn't get it running properly and Dr. Ulan drove from Edmonton at about 10 o'clock at night to Camrose," Galaas said.

The Northern Alberta Renal Program now helps more than 1,100 patients at 22 sites in the central and northern parts of the province.