Rich Berkowitz is no more. I was shocked to see obituaries from the many whose lives he has touched on my Facebook wall yesterday morning.
I got to know Rich when I was starting out on home hemodialysis back in mid 2006. He was one of the people on the Home Dialysis Central website that would actively advise folks like me who were just starting out on home hemo.
I got to know Rich more closely when he, along with Bill Peckham and others organised the Freedom Cruise. This was a path breaker in more ways than one. For the first time, a group of dialysis patients were going to together on a cruise with portable dialysis machines! Rich and Bill tried real hard to get me on the cruise but unfortunately, things didn't work out.
Subsequently Rich went on to become one of the most vocal advocates for home hemodialysis patients and founded the NxStage Users group which went on to become Home Dialyzors United, one of the most active patient advocacy groups for home hemodialysis patients. They organised an annual conference where top speakers from the home hemodialysis industry including nephrologists, manufacturers and patients spoke and educated about the latest in home hemodialysis.
I finally got to meet Rich in person during my trip to the US in July 2013 when I went to Chicago for the Global HHD meeting. Rich, very generously, picked me up from the airport where I landed from India and drove me straight to Giordano's a Pizza place, treated me to some great pizza and then dropped me off at the hotel. Yes, I actually had this privilege!
During the drive to Giordano's, I was checking with Rich on how he was doing and he remarked, rather strangely that he was getting tired of the dialysis. I was very surprised to hear him say that. He was a fountainhead of inspiration to countless dialyzors. Was this a foreboding of things to come?
Rich was a fantastic person. With his dry sense of humour and extremely affable personality, he endeared himself to all. He was always there when someone needed some advice on home hemodialysis and very passionately believed that home hemo was an excellent modality and the best option for people on dialysis.
I cannot believe that Rich whom I met barely six months back is now gone. I will always remain thankful to him for being there for me and indeed, the many other patients he has helped and guided in times of need. We will miss you Rich!