The Big Red Kidney Bus – Holiday Dialysis on the Move

As any reader of the blog knows, I’m a big believer in holiday dialysis.  So it is with much delight that I can report that there’s a new Holiday BigD player on the block (near you).  The world’s first Big Red Kidney Bus is taking a complete dialysis service (three chairs) to BigD-ers in holiday spots around Victoria, where no dialysis has been before.

The Bus was launched Officially outside Victoria’s Parliament House a week ago (13 March), and it leaves on its maiden voyage this Saturday at Traralgon at 10:00 am from Traralgon Farmer’s Market (outside St Michael’s Primary School Hall) in Church St (incidentally, just across the road from where my Grandparents used to live and I used to holiday!).

Dialysis machines are portable – these are in lock down, ready for travel – courtesy KHA

The story of the Bus is inspiring, and nicely recorded by Jo Fairbairn, Kidney health Australia Education and Health Promotion Manager and Professor Peter Kerr Director of Nephrology Monash Health:

Big Red Kidney Bus Background

A wonderful gentleman, Mr Vince Tripodi from Traralgon (deceased) who was a dialysis patient at Latrobe Valley Regional Health Dialysis Unit wrote to the Kidney Health Australia CEO Anne Wilson in January 2011 with this wonderful initiative to provide Mobile Holiday Dialysis.  

This was a historic moment.  The Big Red Kidney Bus is to provide Mobile Holiday Dialysis at Victorian Holiday destinations where it will stay for 6 weeks at local caravan parks.  People will book in to their own accommodation or stay with family and friends and they will be able to access dialysis on the Big Red Kidney Bus, which they need to do 3 days a week for 5 hours a day to stay alive.  

Vince was not alone in his quest for this to happen and dialysis patients Suzi Picken, Bruce Bremner and Peter Maxwell worked with him.  Sadly Suzi and Bruce have also passed away, but all three dialysis patients knew the bus was coming and they were thrilled.

The rationale of the group was to create the opportunity for families with someone on dialysis and individuals to have possibly their first ever holiday. They just cannot get away because there are so few chairs available and many holiday destinations do not have a dialysis unit.

Kidney Health Australia raised all the money to renovate a donated school bus (by Ventura Bus Lines) and many generous financial donations and in kind donations have been received especially from Trusts and Foundations, the Traralgon community and the Bus Industry, including:

  • Monash Health is providing two nurses and one renal technician and to manage all the clinical and medical aspect of this “innovative” mobile holiday dialysis unit
  • Fresenius has donated all the dialysis equipment
  • The other amazing major community partner is Latrobe Valley Bus Lines who will provide drivers to move the Big Red Kidney Bus every six weeks to another holiday destination. They will also park the bus in their Morwell Depot in any off-the-road time. Latrobe Valley Bus Lines will provide free servicing and maintenance which is a huge donation to this important program for people on dialysis.
  • The Bus Industry Australia wide and the community in general, has totally embraced the Big Red Kidney Bus. Please share this information with people on dialysis you may know.

How is Works

  • Australians on haemodialysis in a hospital dialysis unit, in a satellite unit or on home haemodialysis will arrange and pay for their own holiday accommodation and travel arrangements at a particular location in Victoria
  • The Big Red Kidney Bus will be located at Camping Grounds at Victorian holiday destinations
  • Destinations will be decided based on consultation
  • It is hoped that the locations for the Big Red Kidney Bus will be advertised one to two years in advance once it is up and going after 12 months
  • It will stay in each location for approximately 6 weeks. It will be stationary during this time and there will be no bus driver available
  • These holiday destinations will have no dialysis unit in the local area
  • If there is a dialysis unit in the area, the Big Red Kidney Bus Project (KHA and Monash Health) will have communicated directly with them and ensure that the Big Red Kidney Bus will be adding value to the existing dialysis service and not in any way competing with it
  • Not all existing dialysis units have holiday chairs available
  • A Big Red Kidney Bus iCloud booking system will be developed and managed by Kidney Health Australia. People will be able to Express Interest in accessing the Big Red Kidney Bus online and Monash Health Project Renal Nurse Manager will convert the expression of interest to an accepted booking online, or reject a booking that does not meet the requirements
  • KHA and the Project Nurse will assist all people who do not use the internet with a telephone service, converting it to an online booking while they are on the phone. Where possible a friend or relative’s email address will be required for all confirmation
  • An external independent evaluation consultant has been appointed by KHA to evaluate all aspects of the first 12 months of the Big Red Kidney Bus Project including Quality of Life outcomes.

(See here for their full article.)

While the Big Red Kidney Bus is the first mobile holiday dialysis unit, it is not the first mobile dialysis unit.  As this excellent paper shows, there are trucks, buses, camper vans and caravans (and holiday homes) around the world keeping us BigD-ers alive and kicking in some surprising places.

For a lot more inspiration and some great photos, go to Kidney Health Australia’s Big Red Kidney Bus page and Much more than just a big red bus.

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