Finding His Way: Kidney Patient Lives Backpacking Dream

By Satellite WellBound Santa Rosa Staff
 
Chris Martin enjoys the outdoors. Growing up, he and his father took frequent hikes and camping trips. Backpacking, however, posed a challenge.
 
“It was always something I wanted to do,” Chris said. “But it’s a logistical nightmare for someone like me.”
 
At 5, Chris was diagnosed with the kidney disease Membranoproliferative Glomerulonephritis. He’s been on dialysis since his 15th birthday. In 2010, he switched from hemodialysis to peritoneal dialysis (PD) and more recently to home hemodialysis, both home-based treatments.
 
The logistical nightmare of backpacking turned into a dream when one day he was reading about the We Shall Overcome Dream Trip in his dad’s copy of Backpacker magazine. Chris entered the contest with the pitch: Dialysis patient goes backpacking for the first time. Three days later, Backpacker called.
 
Chris entered to challenge himself, as well as raise awareness about kidney disease. “To get it out there and let people know that people on dialysis can still do things. To broaden their horizons to what a dialysis patient can be,” he said.
 
While Backpacker planned the route, Chris and his doctor planned his dialysis exchanges. The two decided on a regimen with about half the number of exchanges and half the amount of dialysate fluid he regularly used. Even with the reduction in his exchanges, he would still be carrying 40 pounds of fluid for his three-day backpacking trip.
 
Chris and his dad have explored most of Northern California. This time they were treated to a new sight along the Lost Coast near Shelter Cove. Accompanied by three Backpacker staffers, they set out on a new adventure, for all of them.
 
“I was used to 3 to 5 mile hikes with light gear,” Chris said. “This was a monster with an uneven, rocky beach and 40 pounds.”
 
The three days included multiple stops for Chris to perform exchanges. Backpacker magazine recorded the combination of backpacking and dialysis treatments. Through this, Chris achieved his goal of raising awareness about living with kidney disease.
 
While he admits the trip was demanding, Chris also is proud to have accomplished this dream. “It was nice to see I could do it even though it was challenging.”
 
Thanks to home dialysis options, the outdoors are not so far out of reach. These days Chris is on home hemodialysis, and under his doctor’s supervision, dialyzes early in the morning before he leaves for a two-day camping journey. On his return, he dialyzes again, enabling him to attend weekend events like the Northern Lights Music Festival near Percy, California.
 
“I like to camp because being outdoors was something I grew up with. I really had to put it on the back burner when my kidneys failed the first go around, so it's always a nice way to escape,” said Chris.  “I never really had to alter my routine, I altered my dialysis.”
 
Always talk with your doctor about your treatment modality and the best path to take when planning a camping trip.