A simple holiday was once a journey to be endured rather than be enjoyed for dialysis patient Joel Williams.
But the provision of a rolling dialysis ward, known as the Big Red Kidney Bus, has changed all that.
This week the Sydney man has enjoyed a break in Nelson Bay, having tried the service only once previously at Nowra.
Before that, it had been nearly five years since he last attempted a break, also at Nowra.
“I went to the south coast with my brothers but Nowra hospital was accepting patients, so I had to catch the train back to Wollongong every second day,” he said.
“Travelling 2.5 hours to have five hours of dialysis, then coming back, it was exhausting.”
The NSW Big Red Kidney Bus operates in partnership by Kidney Health Australia and Royal North Shore Hospital, for those with end-stage kidney disease.
In effect it provides 12 seats a week with most patients needing three sessions on alternating days.
Mr Williams had a kidney removed as a baby when he was diagnosed with a bowel reflux condition. His remaining kidney failed when he was 39. Dialysis passes the blood through microscopic fibres to filter the toxins from the blood.
“It’s a misconception that you instantly feel better,” he said.
“It really take it out of me. I’ll have a sleep after this before I go out fishing with my brothers this afternoon.”
The bus has been parked up at Halifax Holiday Park. The location alone, with the greenery of the headland, made for a pleasant surprise.
“Normally I’m looking out the window at a car park, so this is a nice change,” Mr Williams said.
Port Stephens mayor Ryan Palmer joined with Dungog mayor Tracy Norman.
Cr Palmer said it was great the Port Stephens could host the service.
“The bus is here until June 9 and it would be great to see more people make use of this service,” he said.
Cr Norman said it was pleasing to see the bus on a personal level.
“The bus is named after my mum, Shirley,” she said.
“Mum and dad left money in their will to the kidney foundation.”
She said it was “significant amount” and when the cheque was drawn Cr Norman asked that the money fund the bus.
“We all like to give to charity and see that money do good things but this is extra special for me,” she said.
Kidney Health Australia’s Interim CEO, Dr Lisa Murphy, was delighted Victorian program had reached NSW.
“We’re thrilled to hear about patients like Joel who are enjoying the freedom the bus gives, while receiving expert care from the Royal North Shore Hospital dialysis team,” she said.