A few weeks ago Yang wrote and asked for some advice to help her better plan and prepare for her trip from New Zealand to Hawaii.
Of course, planning is the key and involves five areas: arranging dialysis, getting there, having a place to stay, managing meds and doing stuff.
As BigD club members, this is always step 1. No point going anywhere if I can’t dialyse when I get there. I wrote about this about a year ago: Finding a SAFE Holiday Dialysis Unit, covering how to find a safe unit, how to contact them and dealing with the cost of treatment, etc. Not much has changed, except that there seems to be more units offering holiday dialysis.
A word about selecting session times. After so many years on dialysis, I think of myself as being like a koala bear. Koalas have almost no capacity to store up food or energy, so they have to eat regularly and often to stay well. Life on BigD is much the same for me. I have no capacity to clean my blood except dialysis, which I do 5 times per week: Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu and Sat, for three hours per session. So as long as I follow my routine I feel fit and healthy. If I miss or delay a session I feel progressively less well. Once I have the session, I feel well again. So wherever possible when I travel, I like to stick to my routine. I recommend that you do the same. It may just make the difference between an OK holiday and a great holiday.
There are two schools of thought about the trip: it is the no-man’s land we have to cross to get from life-as-usual to life-on-holiday, or it is an integral part of life-on-holiday, to be experienced and engaged with from the moment the journey begins. We subscribe to the second school.
So, if it’s a long-haul flight, we do it during the day. No matter how well you sleep on a plane, flying through the night disrupts your normal sleep, and you pay for it the next day. Better to stick with your usual sleep pattern and take your time. We certainly arrive feeling fresher, and all the better for all those free movies and the snacks we wouldn’t eat at home.
When it’s a driving holiday, we also tend to take our time. We rarely drive straight from A to B. We like to stop and look at things along the way. And drink coffee in strange coffee shops.
A Place to Stay
Find a place near dialysis. If there is a flash place an hour away and an OK place near the unit, go for OK. Many times we have done the reverse and come to regret it. One time when we went to Port Douglas for a holiday, the closest dialysis was 40 minutes away in Cairns. Not only did it add hours to each session, but the machine blew up during one run and it took 3 hours to fix. It was too far to go home and come back, so we spent 8 hours in Cairns for a 3 hour run. On another holiday in London, we stayed at Shepherds Bush and I dialysed at Forest Hill, at least an hour away. And on our China holiday last year, we stayed an hour away from the hospital (though that was because we were part of a wedding party). Fast learners we are not.
Life is too short to spend it doubling your precious holiday time in dialysis-bound traffic or on a dialysis-bound train.
Managing Meds and bits
Foreign countries find it difficult to cope with people who need prescription meds quickly. I always take along an extra few days’ worth of meds, just in case. Some units expect you to bring your own Heparin and all expect you to have your own EPO/Aranesp.
I have friends who have been delayed far from home unexpectedly. Having backup meds is the difference between the delay being a nuisance and a total stress out (or worse).
Since I use the buttonhole technique, I usually take at least one extra set of blunt needles. Not all BigD units stock them and it is not unheard of to stuff up a needle and need another. I also carry extra scraper needles to remove the buttonhole scabs (the right scrapers can be hard to get in an unfamiliar unit).
Don’t forget the reason you have taken all this trouble: to have a good time and to see and do things you can’t see and do at home. Check out the “10 best things to do” at your holiday destination on the web. Choose the highlights that suit your tastes and go for it. And allow time for that other rarity: rest and relaxation with a book, the papers, a movie, or the close study of your eyelids.
Disabling the email on you smart phone is also a good idea. They’ll be there when you surface a few days later.
Bringing it all together
Arranging Dialysis. Last week Julie and I took a short break at Rosebud, about 75 km (45 miles) from home. We planned the break in January, about eight weeks before. Many friends at dialysis have raved about the Rosebud unit, so we thought it would be good to check it out. It’s a pretty busy unit, with lots of locals and a constant stream of holiday dialysers. Chris, my Unit Manager contacted them and after a bit of negotiation we settled on Thursday 27 Feb and Saturday 1 March. These days fitted in with my usual routine, so that was one less thing to disrupt the flow of good Karma that I rely on to stay party-fit.
The Rosebud unit turned out to be all it was talked up to be and more: clean and modern, friendly and skilled staff and most accommodating. I can understand why it is so popular, and I look forward to joining the holiday queue in the future.
Getting there. We drove to Rosebud on Wednesday after my usual BigD session at my unit. It took about two and a half hours, because we stopped for lunch and to visit Sullivan Bay, in Sorrento.
Sullivan Bay was there that two ships, HMS Calcutta and Ocean, arrived from Portsmouth with 300 convicts, marines, civil officers, free settlers wives and children in January 1803. It was the first attempt to settle Europeans permanently in what is now Victoria (and just the second Australian settlement after Sydney Cove). There is a very informative monument and display, but no artefacts of any kind. The settlement lasted only seven months, abandoned mainly because of poor soil and lack of fresh water. It is famous for several things: one of the convicts, William Buckley, escaped and lived for 32 years with the aboriginal population on the other side of the Bay; six others were shot or died escaping; one of Melbourne’s founders, a very young John Pascoe Fawkner was one of the passengers, with his mother and convict father on the Calcutta. It was another 22 years before Melbourne was founded permanently.
A place to stay. We chose an OK motel two minutes from the Rosebud dialysis unit. Bliss.
Managing Meds and bits. I planned for only two BigD sessions, but took a backup set, plus scraping needles and Heparin. As it turned out, I didn’t need the blunt needles, but I felt better having them with me.
Doing Stuff. Julie did all the planning for this one and she did a great job. We went to the magnificently wild and spectacular Cape Shank, walked the boardwalk to the shore and climbed up the lighthouse steps. We exercised our legs on Millionaire’s Walk along the coast from Sorrento to Portsea (looking at all the pretty, and very private, houses), our taste buds at a couple of very swish wineries and a cheese maker and soaked up the serenity in some beautiful formal gardens.
BigD holidays are not easy, but with a little care and planning, they can be delightful.