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Traveling Around the Globe: Adventures of a Hemodialysis Patient

Bill Peckham

Posted June 27, 2006

Welcome to KidneyTalk!

So, you think your traveling days are over now that you’re on dialysis? Think again. On this week’s show, Lori Hartwell and Stephen Furst talk with Bill Peckham, a hemodialysis patient who has visited 29 countries on five continents since starting dialysis, dialyzing in 19 of them!

Bill, who calls Seattle, WA, home, thought his traveling days were over once he began hemodialysis in 1990. “I loved traveling before I started dialysis,” says Bill, “but I really didn’t understand how widely you could travel, needing dialysis three times a week.” Since then, his travels have been as extensive as his imagination allows.

From a dialysis unit in South Africa with peacocks strutting around the grounds, to a unit overlooking the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, to a unit in Central America where the iodine came from a bottle instead of an individual swab, Bill has taken advantage of the worldwide availability of dialysis facilities, as well as the worldwide community of dialysis patients who love to travel.

Though he certainly enjoys traveling with others, Bill says that “If the choice is between going alone and not going, I’ll go alone.” He’s quick to point out that traveling with a hemodialysis patient does have certain advantages: “A lot of time, travel can seem like a three-legged race when you’re with someone, because you have to do everything together. But when people travel with me, they know they’re going to have five hours, three days a week when they can do whatever they want. So it works out great!”

Arguably among the most traveled dialysis patients in the world, Bill credits his lack of apprehension to dialyzing abroad to a single action--he inserts his own dialysis needles. He also credits self-cannulation with a better dialysis experience overall. “Self-care, and taking charge of your care, it’s all a piece of doing well on dialysis,” says Bill. “And for someone who likes to travel like myself, putting in your own needles really is a great way to go, because it takes away all the worry about visiting another unit. Because once the needles are in, the staff should be able to hook you up just like they do their own patients day after day. It also says to the staff, here’s someone who really does take control of his treatment and knows what he’s doing.”

One of the most refreshing things in hearing about Bill’s adventures, says Lori, “is that it reminds everybody that you can still do the things you want to do” in spite of chronic kidney disease. “Sometimes you just have to plan a little bit more,” adds Lori, “but you can still live a full life.”

Bill writes about his adventures on the website,, which has a database of dialysis facilities in 127 countries that offer dialysis for travelers (go to Blogs and select Bill from the Author list). There are a number of websites useful to dialysis patients who wish to travel in the U.S. or abroad, as well as companies that arrange tours and cruises that accommodate dialysis patients. Ask your unit’s social worker to help you with your travel needs, or visit; on the Resources drop-down menu, click on Travel.

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With your Hosts...

Stephen FurstStephen Furst got his big break into movies in "Animal House," in which he played Flounder. Stephen has also starred as Dr. Elliot Axelrod in "St. Elsewhere" and as Vir Cotto in "Babylon5." He is a successful television and movie producer/director and a kidney patient.


Lori HartwellLori Hartwell is the author of Chronically Happy - Joyful Living in Spite of Chronic Illness, and President/Founder of Renal Support Network. A kidney patient since the age of two, she has consistently strived to instill hope into the lives of people who live with chronic kidney disease. 



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