[Special] End-stage renal disease patients regain joy of travel in Korea

Song Soo-youn  Published 2019.07.04  15:37  Updated 2019.07.05 14:54


- ‘Travel Dialysis Era’ ① Taiwanese patients get hemodialysis during trip to Busan

More than 20 Taiwanese tourists visited Beomil Yonsei Internal Medicine Clinic on June 18 as part of their four-day trip to Busan. Ten were suffering from end-stage renal disease.

Tsai Hsiu-Li is a Taiwanese woman who liked traveling when she was young. However, travel became someone else’s story since she started getting dialysis due to end-stage renal disease(ESRD). She had to visit a hospital three times a week to receive dialysis. The joy of travel disappeared from her life as she suffered from the disease for 20 years.

However, the so-called “travel dialysis” helped her regain happiness three years ago. She now enjoys travel while receiving hemodialysis safely not only in her home country but in a foreign land, through the support of the Taiwan Association for Dialysis Patients’ Quality of Life (TDQ).

Taiwan introduced travel dialysis service in 2007, and the treatment has now become common. There are about 80,000 patients with end-stage renal disease in Taiwan.

For the past three years, Tsai traveled across Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Those are the countries within reach of four hours of flight from Taiwan. As end-stage kidney patients tend to have the cardiovascular/cerebrovascular disease, too, a long flight can harm their body.

This time around, she came to Busan, a second travel site in Korea after Seoul, last year. Her itinerary includes hemodialysis.

“I found it difficult to receive hemodialysis (in Taiwan), so I received peritoneal dialysis (at home) to travel. Traveling overseas was difficult,” she said. “But I came to know about travel dialysis three years ago. As I can receive hemodialysis at the local site, it’s good that I feel safe and travel overseas.”

Tsai and other Taiwanese patients visited Beomil Yonsei Internal Medicine Clinic in Busan on June 18 to receive hemodialysis during their four-day trip to Busan. They put hemodialysis in their afternoon schedule.

(Left photo) Lee Dong-hyung, director of Beomil Yonsei Internal Medicine Clinic, checks the individual health status of Taiwanese patients in advance. (Right) Lee starts dialysis treatment for a Taiwanese patient with renal failure, communicating with the patient through an interpreter.

The Taiwanese patients chose Beomil Yonsei because the clinic’s quality of dialysis treatment was recognized by the World Travel Dialysis Medical Network (WTDM) via TDQ.

WTDM, a network of clinics in Japan, Taiwan, and Korea, was established in 2016 to help end-stage renal disease patients receive dialysis safely while traveling. Seven Korean clinics, including Beomil Yonsei, provide travel dialysis service under the memorandum of understanding with WTDM.

Beomil Yonsei operates a hemodialysis unit and specializes only in hemodialysis. The clinic received certification from the Korean Society of Nephrology (KSN) for “Excellent Hemodialysis Unit.”

Lee Dong-hyung, director of Beomil Yonsei Internal Medicine Clinic, is not only a specialist in internal medicine and but a KSN-certified specialist in dialysis.

Beomil Yonsei Internal Medicine Clinic Director Lee Dong-hyung (left) talks with Taiwanese nurse Wang Chen Jen about the status of a patient through an interpreter.

On that day, over 20 Taiwanese tourists visited the clinic, and 10 of them had end-stage renal disease. A nurse was accompanying the 10 patients for travel dialysis.

Beomil Yonsei received information about Taiwanese patients in advance to identify their health status and prepared customized dialysis. For smooth communication, the clinic hired an interpreter.

As the Taiwanese patients arrived at the clinic at around 12:30 p.m., medical workers guided them to beds and started medical care. With the Taiwanese nurse Wang Chen Jen who accompanied the patients, Director Lee checked individual patients’ status and proceeded with dialysis treatment by adjusting the blood flow. Only seasoned nurses were allowed to care for Taiwanese patients during dialysis.

Beomil Yonsei nurses check the status of Taiwanese patients with end-stage renal disease during dialysis treatment.

Four experienced nurses paid more attention to check the blood flow of the Taiwanese patients, saying the patients’ blood vessels were weaker than expected.

Taiwanese nurse Wang seemed nervous, too. She checked the individual patients’ status and explained about which part the patients felt uncomfortable to Korean medical staffs.

“For a long time, I’ve been working to help end-stage renal disease patients travel. What I care the most is whether the patients on dialysis will have a change in health status,” Wang said.

As the Taiwanese patients started receiving hemodialysis, their families went on to have a separate tour. The families came back to the clinic at around 6 p.m., when the dialysis was all finished, to travel Busan with the patients.

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