Happy Beans

 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

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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.

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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.

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