Where can I go?
Anywhere there’s a dialysis unit, and they are just about everywhere. Consider local travel to begin with, it’s easier and works well as a practice run for bigger trips.
Once you catch the travel bug, international travel is a fabulous next step: new worlds, new food, new language, new experiences, adventures and delights.
Get Some Ideas
Find some units somewhere exotic from TravelDialysisReview or Google. Go to each unit’s website (they will be either a private centre or a unit operating inside a hospital). Their descriptions and photos usually give a good indication of what you can expect
Begin investigating travel arrangements (flights, trains, road trips, etc) that suit your times, but don’t confirm them yet.
Almost invariably there will be a phone number or email address. Call (via Skype) or email, with a brief outline of what you need (how many sessions, dates, etc). They will usually respond with availability information, and often a Dialysis Visitor form, asking for more details.
For international travel:
If you are travelling to non-English-speaking countries, ask for an English-speaking contact in your first email. You will also need someone at your end who speaks the lingo, at the very least to check that the arrangements being made are the arrangements you want.
Ask about costs
Expect to pay between US$300 and US$800 per session, unless the unit is in a country that has some kind of reciprocal National Health Care agreement with your country (eg like Medicare Australia). Even then, check if there are any additional fees. Some units only accept cash.
Talk to your unit manager
Once you get a provisional OK, talk to your Unit Manager about what needs to be done. They will usually complete the paperwork about technical stuff about your dialysis, blood tests, etc.
Once the dialysis is arranged, confirm your travel plans (this can be a repetitive process, matching travel as dialysis availability changes).
If possible, try to find accomidation close to your units. The last thing you need on holiday is to add hours to each session travelling to and from dialysis. Resist the temptation of the beautiful cottage “just 40 minutes from the unit”. Life is too short to spend it wasting your precious holiday time in dialysis-bound traffic
Prepare your medication
Stock up on meds. For long or distant trips, get your meds sorted into day-by-day bubble packs at the pharmacist/drug store. This makes them easy to track: each day is measured out for the entire trip (plus a week or two for emergencies), so you don’t run out unexpectedly.
Don’t forget your EPO/Aranesp for the period you are away.
If you use the buttonhole technique, take at least one extra set of blunt needles. Not all units stock them and it is not unheard of to stuff up a needle and need another. Also carry extra scraper needles to remove the buttonhole scabs.
Don’t forget the reason you have taken all this trouble: to have a good time, to relax, and to see and do things you do at home. Make sure to switch off your smartphone and stop checking your email!
Minimise stress and worry by minimising the number of different units you visit. Getting to know the staff and the quirks of each new unit can be stressful.
If possible, minimise the number of units you visit that don’t speak your language. While most have someone that can speak basic English, there is no guarantee that they will be available. Trying to ask simple questions, like “What is the wireless password?” or “May I have a glass of ice?” can be very frustrating.
The Google Translate App can be very useful to cross a language barrier, especially if you type out a few standard questions ahead of time.
Keep up your protein intake. Be prepared for different food and if you don’t like what’s on offer, make sure you eat something else that roughly equates with what you would normally eat. The alternative is skipping a meal or two, which combined with the additional exercise you get walking around, will result in you losing weight without realising it.
Go to units with good lighting that you can control; this makes sleeping or using a computer less of a struggle
Find a way to keep your EPO/Aranesp refrigerated. Unrefrigerated, it will last only 7 days. If you run out or have to throw it away, and you may find it very difficult to replace.
Really Useful Links
Kidney Health Australia has some great information for travellers, starting with Dialysis and Travel, a page of articles covering all aspects of dialysis travel including:
- Planning Travel
- General Travel Advice
- Travel Overseas
- Australian HD travel
- Book a holiday on the Big Red Kidney Bus
- Comprehensive Australian Dialysis Unit Guide
In addition, they provide excellent advice:
- For patients on Peritoneal Dialysis (PD), Home HD and transplant recipients
- About travel insurance
- On a range of suggested travel destinations, in Australia and overseas.