I received an email over the weekend
I started with my own travel agency for dialysis travel to Turkey, and have from lots of country's kidney patients coming with a group or individual. Mostly of them I guide by myself and its a pleasure for me. As Turkey is a famous country with the civilizations and rich on culture, I started with the mini-Anatolian tours to much famous places in Turkey, such as Cappadocia, and of course Istanbul
Ah Turkey. I had a great trip to Turkey in 2000. The above note was sent to me by Ms. GÜNEŞ at www.dialysisandholiday.com.
It would be fantastic to get back to Turkey. My host in 2000 is now in residency in Detroit, I'm very glad I went when I did. Ms. GÜNEŞ could do for you what Dr. Eke did for me - organize treatments and act as a guide. Sancar and I have been friends ever since that trip - in fact he called while I was typing this post. He must have sensed that I was thinking of him. I used the Way Back Machine at archive.org to access an article I wrote for iKidney that I thought was gone forever. As I recall the article was meant to discuss the intersection between the internet and travel. I've done a bit of editing - the links were mostly still good - I resisted the temptation to substitute dialyzor for patient. It was a great trip and I owe it all to the internet.
Since starting hemodialysis in 1990, I've not let my medical needs get in the way of a good vacation. I organized my first trips by calling units listed in printed directories - primarily the LIST (see listing for eneph.com below). Unit patient travel coordinators and social workers made this directory available.
In the last few years numerous online directories that list the contact information for dialysis facilities in 100 countries have joined these paper directories. Through these online directories, the Internet makes it much easier for a dialysis patient to explore travel options. Besides offering information about travel through web sites, the Internet can assist patient travel by allowing personal connections to be made throughout the world.
Dr. Sancar Eke first wrote to me during the summer of 1999. I helped him organize a visit to Seattle in December of that year. Dr. Eke is an internist who follows ESRD patients in Kusadasi Turkey; he wanted to visit the Northwest Kidney Centers and, as an NKC Board member, I helped him make the correct contacts. To reciprocate for his successful visit to Seattle, Dr. Eke invited me to visit him in Turkey.
When I started dialysis, I thought I had to pass up unexpected offers to visit exotic lands. However, experience has taught me that quality dialysis is available throughout the world. I was quick to take up Dr. Eke on his offer. Dr. Eke arranged my three treatments in Kusadasi and my three treatments in Istanbul. He also arranged hotel accommodations during my stay in Turkey. I realize that not everyone you meet on the Internet will be as gracious a host as Dr. Eke or be as knowledgeable about local dialysis facilities. However, internet listservs, newsgroups and bulletin boards make contacting local patients and/or dialysis professionals far simpler than in pre-internet days. In addition to meeting people online, Internet contacts can give you an insight into the dialysis situation locally, so you know what to expect before arrival.
With no direct flights from Seattle to Istanbul, I found the best deals were to go through Schiphol in the Netherlands. Amsterdam was the first European city I ever saw as an ESRD patient and it remains one of my favorites. It also remains one of the hardest places to arrange dialysis; there just are not enough spots for visitors. After a few late night phone calls I arranged to get a spot in Hilversum, a train ride away from Amsterdam. However, I could only be assured one dialysis treatment. I had a couple of options but I thought the best one would be to head to Paris for a treatment and a couple days of sightseeing.
Neither the Hilversum or the Paris unit has an Internet presence other then they are listed in the directories on the aforementioned sites. Consequently, I called both units directly to set up my appointments. After determining I could get a spot I stayed in contact via fax. I faxed both the units my medical records and lab reports, and they faxed me to confirm my treatment date and time. Each unit provides dialysis using modern dialysis machines and water treatment, uses universal precautions and doesn't reuse (the United States is the only place I've seen reuse).
Both units were able to provide EPO and Vitamin D but that is not always the case. And, even if a unit has EPO available, you may save money by bringing your own, this is one of the things to look into when setting up treatment. One of the differences between the units was that in Paris I saw the unit nephrologist before treatment, while in Hilversum the charge nurse greeted me and had me perform a test for MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus). The Dutch are strict about MRSA, the only times I've been screened for MRSA have been when visiting Holland and St. Maartin in the Caribbean (the Dutch West Indies).
The Paris and Hilversum units are typical of public dialysis units in Western Europe, they're busy places with their own patient populations and making room for a visitor is a low priority. However, if you get in, they offer high quality dialysis though priced at the high end of the treatment cost range and they usually offer a limited choice of treatment times for the visitor. The Hilversum unit required payment in cash, while in Paris they accept Visa. At both units, treatment cost about $350US, but the price will vary due to fluctuating exchange rates.
The dialysis unit I used in Kusadasi is part of a private hospital and is a fully equipped modern facility. There are public units in Turkey but for the traveler the best option are private units. While the amenities are not on the same level as my home unit (in Turkey there were two TVs shared among 10 stations, no ice and more light and noise) the nurses are pretty, the machines are modern and the unit doctor stops by during every run. Plus as private units they provide transportation to and from the hotel, have more capacity to accommodate visitors and are more flexible about treatment times.
In Istanbul, I dialyzed at the Ren Med dialysis center, a large, modern, private facility, outside the center of Istanbul. The unit provided the same level of dialysis as the unit in Kusadasi. Short only on some amenities, it provided quality dialysis, priced at 400 German Marks (all treatments were priced in German Marks because of the softness of the Turkish Lira), and like the unit in Kusadasi, I would not hesitate to dialyze there again. In fact I hope to sooner rather than later.
If the European leg of the trip represented my first 10 years of travel on dialysis - contacting Public units by phone and fax - then the Turkey leg likely represents the next 10 years. The six treatments I had in Turkey were at two private dialysis units and I made my dialysis arrangements over the Internet. The Internet makes finding units and arranging treatments throughout the World a snap. This combination - private dialysis units and the Internet - is providing numerous travel opportunities that just five years ago looked out of reach. Prague, St. Petersburg, Aruba, Edinburgh and London all boast high quality private units that make traveling easy. So pack your bag and don't let traveling abroad intimidate you.
Whether you are a dialysis patient or a social worker looking on behalf of a patient, the Internet should be your first stop when planning a dialysis trip. The Internet offers the opportunity to explore travel options throughout the world or find a unit in a specific locale. Here are a few of my favorite Internet travel sites for dialysis patients:
https://www.globaldialysis.com/ is my first stop on the web when I am planning a trip. They have a comprehensive database of units throughout the world. Their web site lists over 10,000 dialysis units in 115 countries. The site's travel forum feature is a great place to get your ESRD patient travel questions answered by other patients. In addition, they offer information about paying for dialysis abroad, patient travel stories and links to companies that assist dialysis patients with their travel needs, such as
https://www.hditravel.com/ is a site operated by Fresenius Patient Travel Service. I used their service in 1997 to set up treatments in Italy and Spain. They will help you arrange treatment at facilities throughout the world, organizing the transfer of medical records and arranging payment for treatments. However, they are restricted to Fresenius units.
Nephron.com The Nephron Information Center provides information for travelers with a US search engine, dialysis forms, and other travel links.
https://www.dialysisatsea.com/ offers dialysis cruises to destinations all over the world - The Holy Land, Asia, Venice, Greek Islands, India, South Africa, South Pacific, Australia, South America, Middle East, Trans Atlantic Crossings, Europe and the Caribbean.
https://www.dialysisfinder.com/ is a comprehensive database of dialysis units in the United States. Also has links and resource information available for both dialysis patients and their social workers. This is a good site to use if you know where you want to go on vacation and are looking for a local unit.
The List is a comprehensive database of dialysis units the world over. This is the online version of the venerable print directory, which, prior to the Internet, was the primary resource for locating dialysis units anywhere in the world.
These sites and many others on the Internet are there as a resource for patients and dialysis social workers; their aim is to inspire ESRD patient travel and make it easy to plan. However, it also pays to do Internet searches for specific destinations to get the most current information.