When December comes around it means it’s time for a new Christmas box. While for some last year’s suitcase is gathering dust in a closet, for others the suitcase has become a faithful companion during vacations. No one was happier with this gift than kidney patient Dr Armin Freundt.
When HR director Tanja van der Brugge showed her Christmas box to her German partner Armin Freundt, he wanted to use the suitcase. Not for his next vacation, but to make his life easier and better.
“I’ve been a kidney patient on dialysis for the past four-and-a-half years”, explains Freundt. “That means a tube is inserted into my abdomen and I take in two litres of fluid four times a day. Water with a bit of glucose mixed in. At the same time two litres of fluid with waste matter is discharged from my body. This type of dialysis, called peritoneal dialysis, means the patient doesn’t have to go to the hospital for treatment as the dialysis can be carried out at home.
Even so, the necessity of undergoing dialysis could have meant that Freundt would lose a good deal of his mobility. This is because the fluids first have to be warmed up before dialysis. “It’s important that the fluids are at body temperature. I had a special hotplate at home for this, but I wasn’t able to take it with me when I travelled.” That’s why about two years ago he converted a pizza box into a mobile hotplate. This solution worked and Freundt was able to travel and carry out his work as a scientist. Unfortunately, in the end this solution proved to be too difficult.
Last year’s Christmas box offered a way out. Just like MacGyver in his heyday, Freundt got creative. He attached a metal plate with a thermostat that could be used to warm the plastic bags of fluid to exactly 37 degrees in the suitcase. To make sure it didn’t get too damp in the suitcase during the warming process, he added ventilation holes. Using the car charger as a power source, dialysis can also be carried out while driving, and insulation material ensures the warming process uses six times less energy than the hotplate.
Besides a quiet pride in his creation, he is also very pleased with the converted Christmas box. “I started with a pizza box, so this is already much more professional. What I find most important is that it allows me to remain mobile and continue work without having to go home for dialysis. That’s why I started with the pizza box in the first place.” The suitcase doesn’t mean that Freundt can go anywhere he wants without any restrictions. “I need to lug around four bags of fluid a day. Carried together in a box, they weigh about ten kilograms. This sometimes creates logistical problems since you can’t just take fourteen of these boxes with you.”
In spite of all the advantages it remains to be seen how long Freundt can continue using this suitcase. “It’s possible that at some point I’ll need a different kind of dialysis. The kind I’m using now will only work for a limited time. It could be five years or it could be twenty. It would be great if the suitcase keeps working until I receive a donor kidney.” There’s no telling how long he’ll have to wait for a donor kidney. “The waiting list in Germany is much longer than the one in the Netherlands, but I hope my turn will come soon.”
Tanja van der Brugge and her partner would like to call attention to organ donation. More information can be found at www.donorregister.nl.