April 1, 2009

Kidney Patients Set Sail On Luxury Dialysis Cruises

Patients with kidney disease have traditionally been confined to stay within the boundaries of their own hometown, but one travel agency is changing that perception by offering a series of cruises tailored for dialysis patients.

The Gerard Pons Voyages travel agency in Bordeaux collaborated with Costa Cruises to offer 15 trips each year with a dialysis clinic onboard the ship.

The number of dialysis patients continues to grow by about 8 percent each year as people continue to live longer. Many patients begin the process at near the age of retirement, which is also a likely time for most to begin traveling abroad.

But dialysis and travel typically do not mix well. Kidney patients usually undergo dialysis three times each week. Without the treatment, which purifies their blood, they will die.

According to the AFP: "should [kidney patients] travel, the logistics of arranging for dialysis in a different hospital, let alone a foreign country, are daunting enough to keep them at home."

Gerard Pons came up with the concept of dialysis cruises more than 20 years ago during a conversation with a friend who is a nephrologist.

It wasn't until he was introduced to Costa Cruises that he realized his dream could become a reality. The luxury cruise line had three ships that housed onboard hospitals that were large enough to hold traveling dialysis clinics.

Fresenius, a supplier of dialysis equipment, operates the traveling clinic and plans treatment times for traveling patients. There are four dialysis units on each cruise, allowing for 12 patients.

Leurent told AFP that places are fully booked on cruises scheduled for the first half of 2009.

"When I'm onboard, it's very luxurious," said 72-year-old Josette Georgin. "I forget that I have dialysis. I am on vacation and the dialysis is only a small part of the trip, four hours, three times per week."

"Onboard, no one knows I'm dialyzed, apart from the medical staff."

The cost of the cruise depends on how much their national health service is willing to cover. For patients from France, it costs no more to dialyze them in a floating clinic than in a clinic back home.

Traveler insurance is also another factor that determines cost.

"It's really nice to make dreams come true for people who have a medical condition," said Lisa Parnell, owner of Dialysis Holidays in Boston, England.


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