Nomad, 68, recovers from kidney failure WITHOUT treatment
A nomad has claimed he recovered from kidney failure without any medical treatment – despite doctors giving him a 2.5 per cent chance of survival.
Peter, 68, from New Zealand, and his partner Miriam, 38, from the Netherlands, first met Ben Fogle in 2019, where they introduced the presenter to their unconventional lifestyle.
At the time, the couple, who are married but in an open relationship, bounced from place to place, sleeping in tents and explained how they used their own urine to wash their hair.
But appearing on tonight’s Return to the Wild, the pair told Ben how they have temporarily settled into a house they bought in Bulgaria for €2,500 (£2,190) following Peter’s life-changing diagnosis.
Peter explained how he was diagnosed with kidney failure four years ago and was told he had a 2.5 per cent chance of survival unless he had a transplant and started dialysis.
New Zealand native Peter, 68, and his partner Miriam, 38, first appeared on Channel 5’s New Lives in the Wild in 2019. Ben Figle went to visit them for Return to the Wild, airing tonight at 9 p.m
At the time, the couple were on a road trip to Australia – but their trip came to an abrupt end.
“I had a bad case of dysentery and having lived in India for years I didn’t notice it much because in India, you live with that sort of thing,” Peter explained to Ben.
But I ended up getting dehydrated and didn’t realize it. Then I got sicker and sicker and then I started to pass out and I thought “there’s something really wrong here”.
“When dehydration set in, the doctor tried to insert a cannula and couldn’t find any veins. Because everyone had collapsed, there was not enough blood.
“The result was that my kidneys had failed. It was very serious,” added Peter.
“One specialist said I would have a 2.5 percent chance of survival, which isn’t much, if I didn’t have dialysis and a transplant,” he said.
Not surprisingly, Miriam said she found this period very stressful.
She said: ‘I remember when Peter was in hospital, of course I was very worried and a nurse sat me down and she said she asked, “how are you?”
The pair have been together for 16 years, traveling the world. Pictured in 2019, before Peter’s kidney started to fail
‘I started to cry. It was such a burden emotionally.’
After the serious diagnosis, Peter had to weigh his options – aware that starting a treatment plan would interfere with the couple’s nomadic lifestyle.
He said: “I thought if I had to have dialysis I had to be near a hospital because you have to go every three days. If I had a kidney transplant, I would have to take immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of my life.
And any illness I would get, almost all would lead to hospital treatment. People with immunity were the ones who really had the worst time with Covid.
“I just couldn’t see myself living like this, I thought ‘if this is what’s going to happen, I’d better get out. I’d rather die than live like that.”
So I decided not to take that treatment and prepare for the end.
I thought about Miriam, but I thought that the life I was going to have would probably be a semi-suburban one for the rest of my life. I would be a greater burden to him.’
Miriam recalled how she told Peter to do the transplant and even offered her kidney, determined to do whatever it took to keep her partner alive.
But finally Peter said to him: ‘If you really love me, you must leave me too.’
Peter and Miriam told Ben that they would have to stop being nomads for the time being because of Peter’s health. The pair teach the philosophy of living in nature to people who come from all over the world to meet them.
Miriam said Peter’s approach made her question her future as well. She recalled thinking: ‘If Peter is going to die, what am I going to do the next day?’
“It also made me more independent, stronger and more mature.”
She eventually accepted Peter’s decision not to go through with the proposed treatment.
She continued: “It was very brave to say, ‘I’d rather die than go on dialysis and see what happens.’ And he didn’t die!’
In response, Ben said: ‘Can we just take a moment to marvel [at that].’
Rather than pursue medical treatment, Peter said he wanted to cure his kidney problems by leading a healthier lifestyle.
“I haven’t taken any medicine. Neither conventional nor alternative,” he told Ben.
“I couldn’t see why the body couldn’t heal itself. If I did everything possible, water, sleep, moderate exercise, why couldn’t it heal itself?’
However, the couple returned to New Zealand during Peter’s recovery – aware that it was no longer possible for him to live abroad as Miriam and he had done.
But after finding life too restrictive and too expensive in New Zealand, they eventually returned to Bulgaria, where they bought a small house for £2,190.
There, they have found land for food and grown their own vegetables.
The pair, pictured at the 2019 show, have settled into a small house in Bulgaria and plan to buy another
“It was the right move, I’m a lot stronger than a year and a half ago,” said Peter.
Miriam also told Ben that Peter’s condition has changed the way they see life.
“We don’t take each other for granted. Things could go wrong, his kidneys could go into failure again. Easily. And then everything is over,” she said.
The couple shared that while they have a home, they have no lights and will sleep after dark in the winter months.
“Winter is pretty incredible because it’ll snow a foot and a half and then it freezes, you can’t do anything,” Peter told Ben.
So we don’t have any light, and we just sleep when it’s dark, which is many hours in winter. But I think this keeps us very healthy,” said Miriam.
After a doctorate in ecology, Pjetri worked as a lecturer before deciding to leave his job and his home behind. In the photo: Peter around the age when he met Miriam Symptoms of kidney failure:
A variety of symptoms can develop if kidney disease is not detected early or if it worsens despite treatment.
– weight loss and poor appetite
– swollen ankles, feet or hands – as a result of water retention (oedema)
– shortness of breath
– blood in your urine (urine)
– an increased need to urinate – especially at night
– difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
– itchy skin
– muscle cramps
– I feel sick
– erectile dysfunction in men
However, they said they use solar panels to power their home for cooking and internet.
The pair receive royalties from two books Miriam has written about her experience in the desert and use the money for necessities.
They also run a course for people from all over the world, where they combine philosophy and outdoor skills such as fire-making, archery and foraging.
Ben wondered if Miriam regretted the times when the pair would go from place to place, but she told him she was just as happy in Bulgaria as she was anywhere else.
‘I really like this. I don’t think my happiness depends on my activities,” she told him.
“I am very happy anywhere, as long as the environment is beautiful and natural, quiet and I eat and sleep healthy.
Peter added: ‘You don’t want to let your lifestyle trap you, so staying liquid means you can live either way.
Miriam told Ben that she had no plans to have children because Peter wouldn’t, and she would ‘rather have Peter than children’.
But she added that she is realistic about the couple’s future.
“I don’t worry so much, he looks healthy, I’m realistic about that. He won’t live forever and with a bad kidney he won’t go away for no more than 10 years.
“So we want to use our time very wisely,” she said.
Peter also told Ben that he needed to ‘make sure he didn’t overdo it’, so he could take care of his health.
“Death is not the problem, the problem is reaching death,” he added.
He admitted that he knows that due to the age difference between him and Miriam, their relationship does not have a long-term trajectory ahead.
“The biggest crime I can commit against myself is to waste time,” he told Ben.
“We think we live long lives, but when we look at it, compared to the world we’re in, we’re just fireflies,” he smiled.
After 12 years together, the couple said they still consider themselves in an open relationship despite being married.
But Miriam said she would start another relationship only if she had a strong connection with someone.
For the near future, she revealed that she had plans to travel to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia with the idea of finding another tiny house for the couple to move into.
The couple survive by hunting and foraging, with Peter in charge of cooking while Miriam catches animals for meat – despite being raised vegetarian In 2019, Miriam also revealed to Ben Fogle that she uses her own urine to wash her hair in streams.
‘Cause we have this idea, if we can find one, we can find two [houses]she said to Ben.
“Instead of constantly moving, we stay in one place for a while,” Peter said.
As a teenager, Miriam was an accomplished athlete, but eschewed a sports career in favor of traveling the world, and at the age of 22, while on a trip through India, she met Peter.
Meanwhile, after a PhD in Ecology, Pjetri had worked as a lecturer before deciding to quit his job and live life on the streets.
When Ben first met them, the couple had no permanent address, traveling from place to place with a backpack full of belongings.
When it came to survival, Peter was tasked with cooking while Miriam took on the role of gatherer, hunting animals for their meat using a bow and arrow, something she admitted was a far cry from her previous life.
The couple occasionally had to make a trip to a supermarket as Ben discovered when he and Peter stopped at a convenience store in a small Bulgarian village for some supplies that couldn’t be found in nature – including ice cream.
Peter and Miriam funded their lifestyle with their £40,000 life savings, estimating they spent around £3,000 a year.
Peter explained at the time: ‘People often ask what would happen if you ran out of money. Well, we’ll go get a job, simple.’
When it came to washing, Miriam stuck to streams and rivulets discovering the very unusual shampoo she used on Ben – her own urine.
After Ben pointed out that many would be horrified by her approach, Miriam said: ‘For me who goes to work every day, sitting in traffic jams, this is uncomfortable for me.’
Ben Fogle: Return to the Wild airs tonight at 9pm on Channel 5.