BLOOD BROTHERS: From dialysis to a lifelong friendship
JASON Wallace, 26, and Tom Standing, 31, were locked into a game of battleship as they enjoyed their breakfast on Saturday morning.
This situation had all the makings of an average weekend catch-up between good mates, if not for one key detail: the boys are both hooked up to a dialysis machine in the Renal Unit of Lismore Base Hospital.
Despite having both attended Trinity College and socialising with many of the same people, Jason and Tom never crossed paths until this year.
After being diagnosed with kidney failure, Jason started attending dialysis in January.
Tom, who has been going through dialysis for two years, previously enjoyed a private room. That was until the rooms were repurposed due to COVID-19.
"We were actually put next to each other by the staff. They thought we'd get along," said Tom.
"We got to chatting and realised we actually had a lot in common.
"It turned out that we went to the same school, knew a lot of the same people, and have a similar taste in music," said Jason.
"When we first started chatting, one of us would say something and the other would say 'me too!'"
Tom and Jason are hooked up to the dialysis machine for three to four, sometimes even five hours, every second day.
While the process is long and physically taxing, these young men are still able to appreciate the time spent together.
"It great to have someone to talk to who actually knows what your going through. Someone who not only knows all about the process, but actually knows what it feels like to be in the chair as well," said Tom.
"You don't have to explain your situation. If you doze off or you not feeling great emotionally - because it's a physically exhausting process - you don't feel like you need to apologise. They just get it. It's an unspoken understanding."
Jason said "to have someone say 'I understand' or 'I know how you feel', and for them to actually know and understand from personal experience - it's a rare thing."
When they feel that they have chatted one another's ears off, the men have found other ways to pass the time and make sitting in a chair for hours on end more enjoyable.
"Every now and again you run out of things to talk about, so we decided to play battleship," said Jason.
"It's one of the few games you can play where you're still social distancing. Sometimes we'll just play it for five hours straight if we're having a good run."
Always on the lookout distance-friendly games to play, Celebrity Heads and Guess Who are next on the list.
While he is sad to leave the close knit family of patients and staff in the renal unit, Tom is currently in the process of learning how to work the equipment himself, which will enable him to undergo dialysis from the comfort of his own home.
A loved one is currently being tested to see if they are a match for Jason.
If all goes well, he may be able to get a kidney transplant this year.