Brother’s kidney gift of freedom
Newlywed steps up when their father is unable to donate
Jesse Dick has known since his little brother was born he would one day be called on to save his life.
Nathanael Dick, now 9, was born with limited function in one kidney and none in the other. His family was told he would eventually need a kidney transplant. His brother was a blood type match.
So on April 20, four months after his wedding, where Nathanael was page boy, Jesse flew to Auckland from Invercargill for the operation.
Jesse was 15 when Nathanael was born in Southland, where he lives with his parents Carla and Grant Dick and eight of his nine siblings.
After he was diagnosed, tests showed Jesse and Grant were blood type matches, making them suitable kidney donors.
They planned for Grant to donate a kidney first and Jesse to give another later in life as donated kidneys usually only last about 15 years.
“We knew from early on that he would need a donor so I was always prepared to be the one,” Jesse said.
The self-professed adrenaline junkie, who manages a surf and skate store, told the Weekend Herald he had a kidney-shaped tattoo on his arm as a reminder not to push himself too hard or do anything stupid.
“It’s just a little reminder that Nathanael needed me alive and healthy. Binge drinking and doing drugs and stuff — I stayed away from a lot of that,” he said.
Jesse had also battled depression and knowing Nathanael needed him kept him going during dark times in his life.
The family had thought Nathanael’s existing kidney would keep functioning until he was at least 10. However, the need for a transplant came earlier than expected after Nathanael went into kidney failure earlier this year.
After Grant underwent tests to prepare for the surgery, doctors told him he could not donate his kidney because of the effect it would have on his own health.
“[ Jesse] said ‘I’ve got this dad. I don’t want you to worry about it. I’ve got this. I’ve always known this is my job and I’m going to do it’.
“That was his attitude from the beginning, which is awesome.”
The brothers had the surgery at Auckland City Hospital.
Watching two of their sons undergo major surgery was difficult for Grant and his wife.
“It’s really been absolutely mixed emotions,” he said.
“Knowing that your son is going into hospital to have an operation that he doesn’t actually need — someone else needs — is a hard thing to watch.
“But it’s also an awesome thing to see your son step up and not even think about it and do it unselfishly.”
Without the transplant Nathanael would have had to be on dialysis for life.
“It just means freedom for him,” Grant said.
Carla said although Nathanael realised Jesse had given him a “real gift”, he probably would not realise the magnitude of the transplant until he was much older.
Both Jesse and Nathanael are recovering well. Carla and Nathanael will stay in Ronald McDonald House in Auckland until early June, while Grant and Jesse will return to the South Island soon, along with the siblings.
The family had spent about seven weeks apart while Carla and Nathanael were in Auckland preparing for the surgery.
ASB Bank flew Grant and the couple’s other children to Auckland to surprise Carla the weekend before the surgery.
The kidney transplant from big brother Jesse Dick means freedom for 9-year-old Nathanael Dick.