October 26, 2018 - Posted by Greg Collette
Following on from Connie’s guest post of her holiday, here is the carer’s guest post about the same trip, from Louise, Connie’s daughter.
This is a little tale of a patient approaching eighteen years of dialysis, three times per week and a dream holiday. We are always looking for ways to help our Mum enjoy a break. Over the years we have enjoyed short stays locally along Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula and Geelong Surf Coast. While one-off interstate adventures to the Gold Coast, Noosa and Perth have been extended long weekends, all requiring the coordination of dialysis amidst holiday activities.
In 2007, Mum was fortunate to travel to travel to Italy, organized with Dialysis Abroad which we all thought would be a once in a lifetime adventure for her.
Then, in 2018 we braved the tourism industry on our own and managed to create another adventure for our mother. This is our story…
It all started with my sister who loved her cruise ship adventure with her husband so much she wanted to find a way to take our Mum. After months of bouncing around her very passionate idea, she narrowed our search to a cruise in a warm climate, that offered dialysis on route to a destination that our parents would enjoy.
Searching the internet and travel guides, my sister found a cruise through Dialysis at Sea, which offered dialysis on-board a Celebrity cruise ship from Honolulu to Vancouver. The plans snowballed from there.
It took some patience, emails and midnight phone calls to see if the US-based provider would accept international patients. Once confirmed we worked with Mum’s home dialysis unit, B.Braun Diamond Valley, to organise their endorsement to ensure her acceptance to the Dialysis at Sea program. Mum was accepted, subject to passing a number of supporting medical information hurdles and my sister and I booked our Cruise ship cabins that week.
With the excitement of the potential holiday, we liaised with Chris, Diamond Valley’s Unit Manager for help with finding the necessary additional dialysis needed on land between flights and cruising. With her help, we managed to coordinate Dialysis sessions in Honolulu before the cruise and two sessions in Vancouver after the Cruise.
Now you might be reading this and think we have made it seem easy, but it should be noted that the planning started a little over a year ahead of time, well in advance of getting this far.
At this point, my sister and I excitedly went through the adventure itinerary with our parents before starting to book flights and accommodation (the point at which our husbands would come into their own) when over a casual dinner our Dad asked which day would we be seeing Niagara Falls? Niagara Falls is not on the Vancouver side of Canada! After a few heated conversations and a few weeks of phone calls, we now had Dialysis sessions in Honolulu, Vancouver and Toronto. The rest of the holiday was planned from there – accommodation, flights and a few day adventures.
The flights were the most involved to plan, as we needed to make sure that the time in between dialysis runs were maintained. We ran the hours between flights and international date lines across a few calculators to make sure we got it right.
Almost two weeks before leaving, when we were confirming the dialysis times for Mum, we contacted Toronto. They told us that a staff member had incorrectly booked us on a day that they are not open, but they could fit us in the day before or after. This did not work with the required dialysis run times and our booked flights. Panic set in! But after numerous late night calls, we found a Dialysis unit in Niagara Falls who were sympathetic to our plight and opened up a spot for us.
Eventually, it was time to depart for our adventure!
The Dialysis at Sea staff were great. There was an initial meeting on the arrival day where we were informed of the process during the cruise including Mum’s dialysis days and times and any questions we had were answered. Except for a small incident with the process on the first run (which was addressed by both the nursing staff and doctor), the dialysis went really well. Also with Mum’s local dialysis unit gradually phasing her onto the blood thinner used by Dialysis at Sea prior to travel, there were minimal differences in the recovery time.
To the credit of Dialysis at sea, their experience meant that they understood patient needs and the whole point of having a holiday. It was also great that Celebrity Cruises had a flexible shore excursion itinerary. This meant that with a morning dialysis session, Mum was able to enjoy an afternoon excursion, enabling her to enjoy the holiday and visit ports along the way.
The three land dialysis runs also went smoothly, except for a panicked moment in Honolulu where we thought the centre had closed without treating Mum! It hadn’t! The nurses opened the doors when they heard us calling out!!! Being a holiday-only unit, they had opened up just for Mum.
It should be noted that caring for Mum during the holiday was a team effort. We were a travelling party of six adults. To ensure everyone enjoyed their holiday the workload as dialysis companion, for pick up and drop offs were shared. At sea, Dad kept Mum company to and from sessions below deck, while on land in the various cities, my sister and I took turns escorting and settling Mum into foreign units, and sons-in law were designated drivers or taxi navigators, lessening the burden of finding car parks along the way.
At this point, I’d like to thank my family for their patience and compromises during our travels – coordination of six adults with different interests and coming together to share the day’s adventures is what made this holiday memorable.
I’d also like to acknowledge the wonderful efforts of the nursing staff at Diamond Valley and abroad throughout our journey. Most of all, thanks Mum for being brave! It is a credit to you, every time we arrived at a new unit along the way to hear nursing staff’s amazement and admiration to have travelled so far and with so many stops.
All in all, Mum had a jammed packed dialysis – nine dialysis sessions in 18 days:
Plus of course, adjusted dialysis runs at her home unit before departure and upon arrival home.
Her itinerary in Hawaii included visiting Pearl Harbour, Diamond Crater and Waikiki on Oahu as well as exploring the Hawaiian Islands of Maui with a Helicopter scenic flight and submarine adventure and general sight-seeing on the Big Island.
In Canada, there was a bus tour of the Victoria BC, a sea-to sky driving tour in Vancouver, taking in the sights of Whistler and throwing a snowball or two during a glacier visit. Then a cross-country flight to Toronto, hiring cars and driving down to Niagara Falls. At Niagara Falls, the spectacular sight was taken in the morning, noon and night from vantage points above, amidst on the Hornblower and walking behind the waterfalls. A little outlet shopping detour was included too before heading home to Melbourne from Toronto.
We believe that just because you are on dialysis or share a life of dialysis with a loved one, doesn’t mean you can’t have your own travelling adventure – big or small. It just takes a little love, some thoughtful consideration and lots of planning!
Wishing you all the best with your dialysis adventures.
Louise, Connie’s daughter.
Posted in: Carer's view