Transplant of vital organ saved life

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by Rachael Comer

Kim Hewson says she owes her life to the young woman who donated her organs after death.
The Timaru woman had a kidney transplant 14 years ago, suffering from the hereditary condition polycystic kidney disease, from the age of 30. She had been on dialysis for about a year before the operation.
“I was able to write to the family of the donor and learnt it was a young woman in her early 20s who had died in a car accident,” Mrs Hewson said.
“I am so thankful to that family.”
March 9 is World Kidney Day, a chance to raise awareness of the vital organ.
Mrs Hewson said the hereditary condition, which had caused the gradual failure of her kidneys, had also affected other family members.
“My Mum and both her two brothers had it.
“Her older brother died because of it and the other brother had a transplant. My mother had a transplant after I did.”
Mrs Hewson was 44 when she had her operation.
“It was a gradual thing,” she said.
“I was on dialysis, which did make me feel better but meant I was tied to a machine.”
The dialysis meant being in Christchurch three times a week in the beginning, eventually being able to have a machine at home in Timaru.
“Then I got the call to say there was an organ.”
She said after the operation, despite the normal recovery process, she had felt better instantly.
“I had a lot more energy.
“Before the operation I couldn’t walk around the supermarket – it was pretty hard going.
“I have felt better ever since the operation.”
She is on ongoing medication and is monitored closely by health professionals.
“I am now checked out every six months and will be monitored for the rest of my life.”
She tried to stay fit and healthy and had a positive approach to life, she said.
She encouraged others to talk about organ donation and was happy about a new Act passed in New Zealand which gave those who donated live organs full compensation.
“It’s a huge operation for a healthy person.
“It’s also saving the Government a lot of money as less people will be on dialysis. It’s a hell of an expense being on dialysis.”

Organs: the facts
Most humans are born with two kidneys.
Kidney functions include regulating blood pressure, producing red blood cells, activating vitamin D and producing some glucose.
There were 61 deceased organ donors in New Zealand in 2016.
From the 61 donors, 181 organs were transplanted, a 57% increase over the past four years.
Sources: Kidney Health NZ, Government