In 2011 I was diagnosed with FSGS, thats Focal Segmental Glomeruloscelrosis. Basically a fancy way of saying I have scars on the filtering thingee majiggies on my kidneys. I take an immunosuppressant drug called Ciclosporin which helps manage symptoms. For a while there I considered my body to be a bit broken and have written about my experiences here. When I first got diagnosed I remember taking a trip to Rangitoto island on an account of reading about the islands volcanic kidney fern glen. I thought that they could heal me. So off I went in search of these ferns and after an hour walk I rolled around in an abundant glen of damp kidney ferns. This might sound nuts but I have a strong belief in rongoa (Maori medicine) and the healing nature of the outdoors. Part of my motivation to walk Te Araroa stems from this belief. So with that I thought I would follow up on what managing my health was like on Te Araroa. In doing so i’m hoping to encourage others with medical considerations to the outdoors.
The only difficulties I experienced with my medication was carrying it. Carrying emulsion medicine was a giant pain in the ass. Keeping them dry was worse. The individual capsules unfortunately cannot be removed from their blister packs as it reduces the potency of the medicine. So I resorted to this method of carrying them – the blister pack strips packed into a plastic takeaway container and carried in the side pocket of my back pack. This was the only place I could stop them from getting crushed. It worked. I took 50mg in the morning and 50mg at night. They are suppose to be taken at least 12 hours apart. I would make sure I left a blister strip in the mesh pocket of the tent at night. This meant I wouldn’t forget to take the morning dose which happened a lot when we first started the trail. In the manic morning rush and pack up I would often forget.
But if I thought my med carrying was difficult I recently saw something that put my issues into perspective. It was this
What came next was beautiful. The comments that came out of this simple post were heart warming and incredibly motivating. Heres a few of the 29 comments.
It is encouraging to know that there is a Te Araroa community that wants to help and facilitate people who have to consider some complex medical arrangements when planning their through walks. Having a medical condition makes planning for a long distance trail complicated and there were so many times I worried about my health and what could go wrong. Because cyclosporin weakens your immune system I thought that I would be constantly sick on the trail. But thankfully none of that happened. I was extremely precautions, used a lot of hand sanitiser and tried to take care of myself as best as I could. My kidneys weren’t my issue, I had more problems with my feet. I did forget to take my meds sometimes but there was thankfully never a consequence.
After nearly 5 months on the trail I came back home and had a catch up with my Renel Specialist, Philip Matheson at Wellington Hospital. He did his regular physical tests (blood pressure check, oedema check etc) along with my first blood tests in 5 months (I’m suppose to do them every month!). In his words I was, and I quote, “Disgustingly healthy”. He followed that up by saying “You should go walking more often”. For the first time years my blood pressure was up to almost a normal healthy persons (Its usually always low) and my tests showed some overall improvement. I was stoked. Sometimes I think maybe I just got lucky but I know better than that. The outdoors and nature has an amazingly capability to heal. While I will never be cured, I believe that there is a strong wairua (spirit) in the outdoors. Its in everything. The trees, the mud, the birds and of course the people. I hope to see more posts like Armin’s in the future. If we as a community can continue to support each other then more of us will be able to enjoy the healing outdoors.