Holiday dialysis a tonic for mental health

1500x600 Epworth Geelong staff with dialysis machine

For Sydney-sider Bruce Flick, attending the 60 year reunion of Australia’s Men’s basketball team that competed in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics was simply not negotiable. With only three of the original 12 squad still able to attend, he was determined to experience the Olympic Spirit once more.

Now in his 80s, Flick looked forward to staying with his son’s family in Jan Juc on Victoria’s Surf Coast and spending some quality time with his three grandchildren aged 8, 10 and 12. It was a timely and emotional visit. But the trip was contingent on one other very important arrangement – Mr Flick suffers from kidney disease and requires kidney dialysis treatments three times per week.

“Dialysis has been very challenging” said the sprightly Mr Flick. “I’ve been undergoing it for 18 months now and it’s had a significant impact on my life. It takes some getting used to”. He’s not wrong. After travel to and fro and the five hour treatment, most patients need to rest after they get home, making it a long day. “Doing that three times each week is a big shift for someone who has enjoyed good health for most of his life,” said Mr Flick.

Fortunately, Epworth Geelong’s new dialysis unit offers ‘holiday dialysis’. Flick’s Sydney-based doctor made arrangements with Ellie Burns, Epworth Geelong’s dialysis unit’s Nurse Unit Manager. “Our new dialysis unit welcomes patients travelling through the area and we try to make it as easy as possible for them”, she said. “It’s tough for patients to take even a few days away from home when they need dialysis three times a week”, she said, but holiday dialysis makes it possible”.

Harvey Westbury is another high achiever. At 75, he has recently completed his Doctorate at the University of Sydney in Veterinary Science; he swims and rows three times a week; and he’s the proud grandfather of two. After eight years of dialysis, Harvey says that he prefers to dialyze in the afternoon to use his days most effectively.

Westbury had worked at the CSIRO’s animal laboratory until his retirement 15 years ago, when he and his wife Jo moved to Noosa. A reunion with his CSIRO colleagues in Geelong meant a five night stay, requiring two dialysis treatments at Epworth Geelong. “It’s like a five star hotel!” he said. “I found the all the staff terrific. All highly skilled and very helpful”.

Epworth Geelong’s holiday dialysis patients are expected to include Melbourne residents taking their summer holidays along the Surf Coast. “Patients can now enjoy a summer holiday with their families, something the rest of us take for granted”, said Burns. “Every Epworth Geelong holiday dialysis patient is seen by Nephrologist, Dr Karen Dwyer, who visits each patient at their first treatment to ensure everything’s taken care of and they’re comfortable”, she said.

Dr Dwyer is very encouraging of patients taking a holiday. “Dialysis is an extremely limiting and restrictive treatment”, she said. There is a significantly higher prevalence of depression amongst dialysis patients than the general public and it’s not surprising given the lifestyle factors that these patients have to deal with,” she said. “There are limitations on what people eat; drink; and of course, how they spend their time,” she said. “So it’s very important that patients remain focused on having dialysis to live, rather than living for dialysis. Taking regular holidays and visiting friends is a good way to do this,” she said.

Mother of two, Leanne Reeves has been on dialysis for 15 months. Last year she holidayed in Port Arlington on the Surf Coast and drove home to Greensborough every second day for dialysis. “By the time I had driven the two hours there; dialyzed; rested; and then driven the two hours back, the whole day was gone” she said. “So when the woman at the caravan park told me that Epworth was opening a new dialysis unit in Waurn Ponds, I quickly made contact and was very happy to confirm a chair for the holiday period”, she said. “The service was awesome!” she said. “The nurses offered me refreshments upon arrival and I was able to order food on the bedside touch-screen. Everyone was extremely helpful. And I was so pleased to meet Dr Dwyer when she visited me at my first treatment. It was very reassuring to speak to her and hear her perspective on some of the issues I’m facing”. And how did she find the new hospital? “The kids couldn’t believe it was a hospital”, she said. “They thought it was a hotel”.

Holiday dialysis at Epworth GeelongClaire Gibbons was a holiday dialysis patient from Warrnambool. She travels frequently with her husband and holiday dialysis has meant they have been able to take some trips to Halls Gap, Lakes Entrance, Bright and the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Pictured, from left: Dr Karen Dwyer, Nephrologist with patient Claire Gibbons

Epworth holiday dialysis locations

Epworth Richmond Ph 9516 2412

Epworth Eastern Ph 8807 7653

Epworth Geelong Ph 5271 7166

Additional information

For more information, download a copy of Kidney Health Australia’s Travel and Haemodialysis Booklet