Five-year wait for a kid­ney

Taranaki Daily News - - Front Page - Stephanie Ock­huy­sen

Af­ter keep­ing her life-threat­en­ing ill­ness a se­cret for more than 10 years, a young Taranaki woman is now shar­ing her story in the hope of en­cour­ag­ing more peo­ple to be­come kid­ney donors.

Un­til re­cently only Danielle Pem­ber­ton’s close fam­ily knew she was bat­tling chronic kid­ney dis­ease.

She was di­ag­nosed at just 15 when her kid­neys were func­tion­ing at 30 per cent; they now func­tion at four per cent. Her kid­neys are fail­ing.

Re­cently, in hopes of en­cour­ag­ing more donors, she took to Face­book to share her story for the first time.

‘‘They just look at you dif­fer­ent when they know and feel sorry for you, but that’s not what I want. I have just got to stay pos­i­tive,’’ she said while un­der­go­ing dial­y­sis at Taranaki Base Hospi­tal.

Pem­ber­ton sits hooked up to a dial­y­sis ma­chine three days a week, four hours a day.

She will con­tinue to do so un­til she gets a kid­ney trans­plant. The av­er­age wait is five years.

Around 2750 Ki­wis re­ceived dial­y­sis in 2016. It keeps peo­ple alive when their kid­neys fail by clean­ing and fil­ter­ing blood and re­mov­ing ex­cess fluid.

At 28, Pem­ber­ton is sig­nif­i­cantly younger than the me­dian age of kid­ney trans­plant re­cip­i­ents, which is 50.

There were 187 kid­ney trans­plants in 2017 – 69 were live donor trans­plants and 118 kid­neys came from 73 de­ceased donors.

More than 400 peo­ple are on the kid­ney trans­plant wait­ing list, but only around 100 kid­neys are do­nated a year, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Health.

But tick­ing the donor box on your driver’s li­cence isn’t enough, as fam­ily have the abil­ity to over­rule, Pem­ber­ton said.

‘‘By the time they find your li­cence you’re al­ready in the ground. Have that chat with your fam­i­lies and make it clear you want to be a donor.’’

For some peo­ple be­ing a live donor is one of the best things they have ever done.

Pem­ber­ton first went to the doc­tor when she kept get­ting gout. It took a while to fig­ure out it was chronic kid­ney dis­ease as it was rare for peo­ple her age, she said.

She be­gan tak­ing med­i­ca­tion for the gout but other than that, car­ried on as a nor­mal teenager.

‘‘At that age you sort of drink a lot and I didn’t change any­thing.’’

At 22 she planned to move to Aus­tralia, but the week be­fore she was told her kid­neys were func­tion­ing at 20 per cent. Doc­tors said she wouldn’t make it past 40 if she re­fused treat­ment.

But, want­ing to carry on liv­ing a nor­mal life, she went any­way and stayed there for seven years.

At the start it was fine: she stopped drink­ing al­co­hol, took her meds, and looked af­ter her body. But soon enough she couldn’t ig­nore it any more.

She was tired all the time, itchy, couldn’t think straight, de­hy­drated, and in and out of hospi­tal all the time.

Her body couldn’t fight in­fec­tions like it was meant to.

So last year she moved back to New Zealand to be close to her fam­ily and start dial­y­sis, which she un­der­goes ev­ery Mon­day, Wed­nes­day, and Fri­day.

It’s a bor­ing process, she said, but one made more bear­able by the other pa­tients sur­round­ing her. A nearby pa­tient de­scribed dial­y­sis as like stick­ing a knit­ting nee­dle in your arm.

When Pem­ber­ton first started she used lo­cal anes­thetic, which added an­other two needles into her arm.

Her sis­ter also has kid­ney is­sues. Doc­tors don’t know where it came from as their par­ents are fine. Both par­ents have of­fered her their kid­neys, but due to so many un­known ge­netic fac­tors it’s not pos­si­ble at this stage.

So, for now, Pem­ber­ton has to wait for a de­ceased or­gan donor.

‘‘One per­son can do­nate so many dif­fer­ent things and save so many dif­fer­ent lives,’’ she said.


Danielle Pem­ber­ton sits hooked up to a dial­y­sis ma­chine three days a week, with each ses­sion last­ing four hours.

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