About halfway through McKenzie's treatment, the power source that the dialysis machine is hooked up to shuts down, forcing Ronnie and Noel to switch to the
generator. They go back to the original source soon enough, only to have it shut down again with about an hour left in McKenzie's treatment. And right as
his session nears completion, it happens for a third time.
Still, Ronnie and Noel never seem too concerned about any of these outages, while McKenzie does not even seem to notice them. They are inevitable and
common incidents, things that simply tend to occur when your office happens to be in the middle of the desert.
"Just too much bloody drain on these plugs," Ronnie says matter-of-factly after the second shutdown. "The power sources are just not reliable enough, are
McKenzie's treatment gets a more welcome interruption between the second and third power failures, when two young aboriginal boys approach the truck.
Ronnie and Noel give them a rudimentary explanation about what they are doing and exhort them to not be on these machines themselves in 40 years.
"Don't end up like him," Noel says, referring to McKenzie.
The boys are only on the truck for a few minutes, and it is unclear whether or not they actually absorb anything Ronnie or Noel tell them. They seem a bit
confused and overwhelmed the whole time, and between the two of them, the only word they say throughout the conversation is "Yeah."
Ronnie pragmatically says that the only real way to know if this brief, impromptu lesson had any effect on the children will be to wait and see what
happens to them when they grow up. However, she is optimistic that it may have had at least a small impact, if only because they know more about kidney
disease now than they did yesterday.
Despite the various and numerous disruptions, Ronnie and Noel still get McKenzie finished with his dialysis right around lunchtime. He appears fine but
slightly worn out, possibly because he has just spent the bulk of the morning having a machine clean his blood.
It is a long, draining process to treat what Ronnie bluntly describes as "a shit of a disease." But McKenzie says he doesn't mind -- in fact, he likes it.
"No dialysis?" he asks rhetorically. He then spirals his hand down toward the floor, indicating that he knows this treatment is better than the
Administering dialysis is far from the only responsibility Ronnie and Noel take on while out with the truck. This same attitude dominates at the unit in
Alice Springs, called the Purple House, where the dialysis room is occasionally the quietest part of the building. Patients hooked up to machines sit
calmly sleeping or watching movies, while employees out front deal with a host of different issues: helping patients get groceries, driving them to local
banks, making sure they don't get evicted. Workers recognize that, for many of the aborigines, coming to Alice Springs is equivalent to coming to a foreign
country, and they are willing to do what they can to help ease the transition.