Dialysis: getting away from it all (or almost all)

Port Douglas. 2jpg

Beautiful Port Douglas

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.

Unit Details:
Cairns Renal Unit
Cairns Private Hospital
1 Upward Street
Cairns  Qld  4870
Clinical Nurse: Sandy Freeland
Phone: +61 7 4052 5167
Fax:       +61 7 4052 5149

10 thoughts on “Dialysis: getting away from it all (or almost all)

    • Hi Katy, thanks for your post. You are most welcome to use the posts on BigDandMe. Let me know when you are ready, I have used globaldialysis many times and I would be very happy to write a post for your new site. I look forward to it.


  1. Thanks very much Greg. Our site will be ready very soon – so I’ll let you know – I would be delighted to have an aritlce on the site from you or the launch in our stories section and would be grateful for any words you can pen for us. I’ll be in touch asap – drop me an email if you want and we can correspond directly there. All the best Katy


  2. Hi my name is Gwen and I am a dialysis patient, I have been on dialysis for over 10 years. I started dialysis on the CAPD, did that for 4 years, then changed to hemodialysis. Sometimes I have a habit of missing days because I find that my arm needs a rest from all the needling that the nurses do.

    I had began treatment on the green needles, been on them for 3 years, now I am on the orange needles. They have been wanting me to change my needles to the purple one’s put have been told by other patients not to go there, for it makes the hole in your fisula bigger. You actually get a better dialysis from the orange needles, so the doctor say’s.

    I am also finally on the transplant list. However, I have been missing my doctors appointments, inwhich I know that I shouldn’t do that because without their in put I may not get to have a transplant. I am hoping that I have a transplant sometime next year or the year after. But hope it’s not too late in the year 2012. For I’m needing to go away to the Cook Islands for a family reunion.

    When I first started hemodialysis I was scared of needles, although I still am, I am so terified of needles that, I have to cover my eyes so I don’t see them inserting the needles. I can feel the needle going in though and man it is so sore.

    Sometimes when the techian needles you, they hit a nerve and you tell them, they say no it’s alright its just you. Then half way through the procedure you’re in a lot of pain. Then you yell out to them to come and take you off the machine.

    Sometimes I just don’t want to go to treatment for a week, but then I have to go to, just so I could make myself better, not only for myself, but for my children and grand-children as well.

    So to all those that are on treatment please don’t be like me and miss. Miss go to your treatment and get better.

    See what I have done is I have gone and enrolled myself in a full time study to get my mind away from my treatment, and it works.


    • Hi Pete. I have found it quite difficult to arrange dialysis at the Cairns Hospital. In the past I have arranged dialysis at the Cairns Private hospital. They have always been friendly, flexible and get the job done. Let me know if you need some contact details. Greg


  3. Hi there. You used a private Hospital for dialysing, what was the cost, did Medicare pay for treatment?
    Planning to visit Port Douglas. I normally dialyse in a Sydney public Hospital.


    • Hi Dick. Most private dialysis units charge between A$200 and A$300 per treatment (sometimes negotiable!). This cost is usually covered by the patient’s health insurance. There are no public or private dialysis units at Port Douglas (except for a publically-operated Home (do it yourself) Unit). The closest public and private units are in Cairns (about 1 hr away). I have found that the public unit (at Cairns Base Hospital) is too busy to take visitors, so the only choice is the Private Unit, at Cairns Private Hospital (https://traveldialysisreview.com/unit.php?id=247).


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