Road trip to Perth is ‘killing me’

Jessica CuthbertAlbany Advertiser
Clare O’kane and John Ripp.
Camera IconClare O’kane and John Ripp. Credit: Jessica Cuthbert

An Albany man is pushing for better facilities for kidney dialysis patients in the region, saying the lack of room in Albany is forcing him to spend time away from his family.

John Ripp travels to Perth every week for his dialysis treatment because the Albany dialysis service, which caters for 18 patients with six chairs, has no more room.

He has three dialysis sessions a week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday — drives home for the weekend and does it all over again the following week.

When Mr Ripp was treated in hospital for an aortic aneurysm six years ago, staff discovered his kidney had stopped functioning.

“After that first procedure, my life was no different. I was fit and healthy and when I lost function of that one it actually saved my life; I swapped my life for that kidney basically,” he said.

Flash-forward to August 2018, when he went in to Fiona Stanley Hospital for a simple procedure to remove build-up of sludge in his bile duct.

“They put a camera down my throat to locate the tube with the build-up, and then they opened a balloon which clears the gunk,” he said.

“I was discharged and then a few hours later we got a call from Fiona Stanley saying I had a bacterial infection of the blood that could kill me; they said another few hours and I would have been dead.

“Something went wrong to allow the bacteria to enter my bloodstream and we weren’t given any answers.”

He was soon diagnosed with complete kidney failure due to the bacteria and begun dialysis immediately.

“Since August I have been doing dialysis but the issue is Albany’s unit doesn’t cater for more than 18 patients, so I’m told,” he said.

“I was expecting to be able to come home and do my treatment in Albany; I was shocked and angry when I was told there was no room down here for me and that I would be travelling to Perth to stay alive.”

Mr Ripp said he didn’t realise the waitlist situation at the Albany unit, nor did he anticipate just how hard it would be to come home.

“Basically I have two options, go to Perth every week or stay home and die; and if I don’t do dialysis I’m dead within a week,” he said.

“I want a life, I want to be able to do things with my partner and my daughter. I’m missing out on so much.”

A WA Country Health spokesperson confirmed the Albany unit is at full capacity with two clients on the renal dialysis waitlist.

“The renal dialysis waitlist is managed in Perth by Perth Renal Services and Albany provides a satellite unit service,” the spokesperson said.

Mr Ripp said he can’t fault the staff at the Albany Health Campus, he just wished the unit received more attention, funding and staff to accommodate more patients in his situation. “The facilities are good but they could be better, there is so much room and need for growth, they need to run dialysis all day but to do so they need more funding and more staff.” he said.

“This dialysis is killing me, I just wish I could be home for when that happens.”

Mr Ripp has done the past two weeks of dialysis in Albany after a spot became available, but he will soon be back to Perth.

He is next in line for a permanent position at the Albany unit.

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