Julie and I have just returned from a week-long holiday at Port Douglas in tropical Far North Queensland (or FNQ to the initiated). We went for several reasons: chasing the warm weather (going from 12oC Melbourne to 28oC Port Douglas is a pretty good reason); having a break from work, and spending some quality time with our 17-month old grandson (and his parents!).
Of course, the BigD arrangements were the priority. Fortunately, there is a Renal Dialysis Unit in Cairns, 64 winding kilometres from Port Douglas. After some initial discussion Chris, the Unit Manager at my unit arranged for four sessions (M, W, T, F) at the Cairns unit. For some reason, they resisted dialysis for all five days, my normal regime.
I dialysed early Saturday morning at my unit and we flew to Cairns in the afternoon. It takes 3.5 hours, with another hour-plus in the shuttle bus to Port Douglas. When you step off the plane, you are hit by a very pleasant mix of humidity and the heat. Right now is tropical winter: the dry season (between May and October), which is the best time to be there. (Tropical summer is the wet season, between November and April, much less comfortable, hotter and more humid, with tropical rains caused by the monsoons.)
My first BigD session was not until Monday at 2pm, so Sunday was a nice day off, exploring, coffee, babysitting and generally doing not much. By Monday, I was starting to feel ready for the BigD. We left on the first of four return trips at about 1230. The drive to Port Douglas is very pretty, with tropical rainforest on one side and the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea on the other. Just like on the postcards.
Of course, there are the usual blights: “glorious waterfront homes and estates” gouged into the bush, the bays and mangroves in unprotected areas that dot the coast. One estate was aptly named Canopy’s’ Edge, with homes creeping inland until they met thick rainforest-coated hills too steep to build on. One office/apartment complex was ironically named “Rainforest House”.
Not that we can talk I suppose, after all, we were staying in a very similar apartment in a very similar location. However, surely we can leave some untouched beauty for our grandchildren’s children.
Ah, I digress. My first Cairns BigD was fine. It started about a half an hour after I arrived and was without incident. It is a homey unit, with five older-style seats and fairly old Baxter machines that mostly do the job. All the other dialysers were visitors like me, which seems to be the norm. This is one of those times when you realise that you really are in a club with a large and diverse membership. From all over the country and the world, we all go through the same thing, hit the same roadblocks and have many of the same highs and lows. It is certainly not difficult to be part of the group, either chatting or in silence.
I had the day off on Tuesday and we had a day with Harry (our grandchild) while mum and dad went snorkelling on the reef. I think we had the better time.
Wednesday, back to Cairns BigD. It was not the greatest experience. My machine broke down and I waited 2 hours for it to be fixed. All in all, we spent seven hours on dialysis that day (one hour either way plus five hours on or waiting for the machine). The Unit Renal Nurse was mortified and just before the run finally started, the Director of Nursing dropped in two free movie tickets as an apology. Most gratefully received (and used to watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). Thank you!
Thursday and Friday’s BigD were fine. On time and hassle free.
In all, we spent 22 hours doing dialysis things. The rest of the time we were on holiday just like everybody else. We slept in every day, wandered the town for morning coffee, slouched around in armchairs reading and eating whenever we felt like it. Took walks along the beach, visited relatives and did the occasional short trip into the rainforest.
The only thing to improve is to try to stay a little closer to the dialysis unit next time, but this is a minor quibble.
The big message is that holiday dialysis really is a holiday. Make the effort and get out of town.
Cairns Renal Unit
Cairns Private Hospital
1 Upward Street
Cairns Qld 4870Clinical Nurse: Sandy Freeland
Phone: +61 7 4052 5167
Fax: +61 7 4052 5149