Dreamtime Truck Brings Life Giving Service

Isuzu FTR 900 Dreamtime Truck

With the recent acquisition of the ‘Purple Truck’, The Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation (WDNWPT) is one step closer to returning dialysis patients home in the Western Desert region.

The Purple Truck, an Isuzu FTR 900, was purchased as a mobile renal dialysis unit to treat remote dialysis patients across Western Australia, Northern Territory and South Australia.

Funded by Medicines Australia as a part of a social responsibility initiative in indigenous health, the mobile dialysis facility was launched on 12 December 2011 by the Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon MP in Alice Springs.

WDNWPT Manager, Sarah Brown, says the Purple truck has made an important contribution to improving indigenous health in the Western Desert region.

“This truck will bring great hope to people who have not visited their homes for a long time. The design and engineering of the vehicle is exactly what we need to help dialysis patients,” Sarah said.

The truck body was specifically engineered and built by GSV Special Vehicles located in Adelaide, to include a dialysis machine and treatment area and took 12 months to construct. Isuzu was then approached by GSV Vehicles as the FTR 900 cab chassis was the perfect fit for the eight metre body.

With comfort and convenience in mind, the body also boasts an inbuilt kitchen, bathroom, and disabled access for those extra-long drives across the desert. There is even an iPod dock so that traditional and gospel music can be played while the patients are treated.

Driven by dialysis nurses who have taken special truck driving courses, Sarah says the Purple Truck features an automated manual transmission (AMT) to make the drive easier and has fared well on the sometimes severely corrugated outback dirt roads.

“The nurses have been happily surprised by the truck’s comfort, especially the driver’s suspension seat and the ease of driving and manoeuvring the truck,” she said.

The dialysis machine in the back removes waste and excess water from the blood, and is used primarily to provide an artificial replacement for lost kidney function in people with renal failure.

Sarah says the truck allows dialysis patients who are forced to live away from their traditional homes to better access permanent dialysis machines in larger cities, to return to their communities and families and pass on important cultural knowledge and to participate in community life.

“Not only does the Purple Truck demystify renal disease through education, it also encourages the local community to engage with health services early and help slow down the progression to dialysis. This in turn motivates them to take preventative actions to avoid being dependent on the dialysis machine for the rest of their life,” she said.

“The dialysis equipment was donated by Fresenius Medical Care and is adorned with the most spectacular Western Desert paintings courtesy of Papunya Tula Artists. It’s a real show-stopper and has already attracted significant attention on its drive up from Adelaide.”

“Besides its noticeable purple cabin, the truck features reproductions of paintings by leading Papunya Tula artists undergoing dialysis. The paintings depict scenes of the dream time and visions of home – known as Ngurra to the Pintupi people.”

WDNWPT began after Papunya Tula artists raised in excess of one million dollars at an auction of paintings at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2000. Since then the organisation has grown into a strong community controlled health service at the forefront of holistic models of care for people with end stage renal failure.

After its launch, the truck went to Papunya, north-west from Alice Springs, to treat its first patients. Next stop is the Warburton community where it will set up camp for two months providing dialysis treatment for people who have been forced to move to Alice Springs or Kalgoorie for treatment. The Purple Truck treats four people a week as each patient needs treatment every second day.

With the truck’s success, Sarah says the WDNWPT will be looking to raise extra funds to keep the truck on the road and establish more access to dialysis treatment in remote communities.

“We are very happy with the Purple Truck and we are looking forward to getting many more people home to their families in the coming years,” Sarah said.

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