Camping for a kidney: patients wait in RVs outside hospitals

Camping for a kidney: patients wait in RVs outside hospitals

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Sonya James doesn't usually live in an RV.

"This is my kitchen," she said, gesturing around her borrowed camper, "and after the transplant I can't eat fast food so this is gonna be really good."

She's been camping out for several weeks. And it's all to save her life.

"There's no way that I could be getting prepared for this surgery without being here," she said.

She's one of three people currently camping out at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center. She's from Higgins, Texas and needs to be in Oklahoma City for dialysis three times a week before she can get a new kidney from her husband.


So for now, the RV is home.

"When I called the hospital and they said they had a place for us I was just ecstatic because I had enough problems without dealing with the financial burden too," she said.

Bo Boshell oversees security for the hospital complex. At the campsite, he sees people in all different conditions.

"When people are facing a health care crisis we don't want people to worry about where am I going to stay, where am I going to live," he said.

And more than just patients stay there. Eden Aduddell's newborn daughter is in the neonatal ICU with a cleft lip.

"If I had to travel back and forth I wouldn't get to be with her as much as I would want to be with her," she said, "and I wouldn't get to see her when I want to see her."

She says the bonding time has been invaluable.

"It is very much a blessing...her name is Journi because this has been very much a journey."

Baptist has six spots with electric and water that are offered to anyone who needs it, free of charge.

Security personnel offer camper rides up to the hospital. They help change propane tanks and do other difficult chores around the RVs, when they can.

It's a campsite you may hope to never visit. But it brings together unlikely friends.

And with both Sonya and Journi's surgeries expected in late November, these campers are connecting by more than just a parking lot. They also share their hope for the future.

"She will be our Thanksgiving blessing," Eden said about Journi.

"It's going to be a wonderful year. Next year's going to be wonderful," said Sonya.


Other major hospitals offer parking and RV hookups for long-term patients, including INTEGRIS Southwest and Mercy. OU Medical Center no longer offers the amenity. A spokesperson believes that is due to current construction on the premises.
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