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Dialyzing on the High Seas

Through countless interactions with individuals on dialysis, a prominent theme resides, the fear of traveling. There may be mobility issues hindering travel and/or fear of treatment at an unknown facility or simply not enough information available regarding the potential possibilities. This is a difficult scenario for the caregiver and family as well, as they feel confined to their local surroundings and a loss of freedom. Feeling unable to travel and vacation with friends and family hinders the many possibilities one is able to experience. Family reunions, weddings or simply visiting grandchildren become a significant task and very overwhelming for many individuals on dialysis. Many patients do not even consider cruising as a viable option.

Few dialysis patients are aware they can receive dialysis onboard cruise ships. Independent companies have been providing dialysis on many major cruise lines with destinations across the world, ranging from the Caribbean Islands and Hawaii, to Alaska, China, Europe and Antarctica. Not only are the destinations and ports of call breathtaking but the service provided by the dialysis staff is remarkable.

The independent companies providing this service staff the nephrologists, nurses and technicians onboard cruise ships. The companies also provide the dialysis equipment, solutions and service for the patients. The quality of the dialysis treatments onboard the cruise ship replicates a land-based dialysis unit.

To ensure the utmost safety for all patients, an extensive medical history must be provided to the medical department of the dialysis cruise company. The nephrologists and charge nurse accompanying the patients on a particular cruise review the patients’ medical information prior to sailing. They are familiar with the dialysis patients scheduled to cruise on the ship. In addition, the nephrologists, medical staff and accompanying doctors onboard have the complete medical history of each patient in the event of an emergency, ensuring the patient’s confidence and alleviating any apprehension the dialysis patient might feel.

As with any dialysis travel, each patient must be conscious of safety concerns. Food is a major concern. There is an abundance of food and fluids provided on cruise ships, with food available 24 hours a day. Although complications are rare, the nephrologists and staff onboard are strict and patients are counseled at the beginning and throughout each cruise on the potential harms of overeating and increasing potassium levels.

To cruise is a vacation within itself. The cruise lines have services catering to all clientele. From the kid zones to the rock climbing walls, shopping and bingo nights, to the Broadway caliber shows on stage and on ice, there is something for everyone. While sailing from destination to destination, one gets to experience not only the destinations, but also the enjoyment of getting there. These ships are mini-cities on water that will astound even the well traveled individual.

Cruise ships have activities designed to cater to those with special needs. The ships are wheelchair accessible and have handicap rooms providing greater ease and convenience. They also cater to the hearing and visually impaired. Special meals may also be requested. To vacation on a cruise ship is a way to have all of your travel needs taken care of in one place. There is no need to travel from destination to destination, packing and unpacking from each hotel stay. There is no need to stop and refuel. Your home is onboard a cruise ship that will give you a comfortable room to sleep in, meals throughout the day, entertainment and memories to make along the way. Your dialysis unit is even onboard ship, with a nephrologist and nurses traveling with you. The comfort and peace of mind that brings is priceless.

Can you imagine having your dialysis session while looking out the window into the Mediterranean Sea? To cruise around the world with the comfort and security of knowing your medical needs are being cared for is gratifying for both the dialysis patient and their family. It is a way to spend time with loved ones, visit those destinations you always hoped you would and enjoy escaping the monotony of everyday life. Your dream vacation can still become a reality.

If you would like to see the world or just simply want to get away, consider choosing a cruise that offers dialysis for your next vacation. You cannot take a vacation from dialysis, but you can dialyze while vacationing.

Patricia Debroux is the Marketing Manager for Dialysis at Sea Cruises.

This article originally appeared in the May 2008 issue of aakpRENALIFE.