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Saturday 26 May 2012

'Red Undies Week': May 27 - June 2. Plus, Jessica and Sarah Moloney's story

The girl on the left is what kidney disease can look like. More on her story, below...

That girl is Sarah Moloney, the sister of Jessica Moloney, a finalist in Australia's Next Top Model (pictured in this photo with her mum). Further down, I interviewed Jessica about Sarah's story. But first, some background info on the health initiative.

Red Undies Week starts next week - from May 27 to June 2 - and is an initiative to make kidney health a little bit cheeky, while bringing a whole lot of awareness to the cause.

Here are some alarming stats:
  • 1 in 3 Australian adults are at increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease, while 1 in 9 already has at least one indicator of existing kidney disease.
  • Over 50 people die each day from kidney related disease.
  • Kidney disease is the 10th biggest killer of Australians, killing more people each year than car accidents, suicide and breast cancer.
  • In 2010, disease of the kidney and urinary system contributed to 13.5% of all Australian death. 
  • For people with chronic kidney disease, the risk of dying from cardiovascular events is 20 times greater than requiring dialysis or transplantation.
  • Dialysis and transplant services costs the health system almost $1 billion per annum.
  • You can lose up to 90% of your kidney function before experiencing symptoms.

Presented by Kidney Health Australia, supporters include 'first bloke' Tim Mathieson (Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's partner), Tyler Atkins and Charli Robinson.

Red Undies Week is a national health campaign planning to make a 'big red splash', and ensure that kidney health (and red undies!) get the attention they deserve.

Here is the Tim Mathieson with his personal message on Red Undies Week: Watch:

And here is Sarah's story, as told by sister Jessica:

"Sarah was diagnosed with Kidney Disease when she was just 13. It was by chance that some years earlier my father Mark (a volunteer ambulance officer at the time), measured her blood pressure one day and was surprised to see it so high. My parents were hoping it was just a case of white coat syndrome but unfortunately it was Sarah's first sign of kidney disease.

Sarah didn't react well to the news. She spent years in denial of what she was living with and what this meant for her future. There were incidents when she would lock herself in the car at the hospital and refuse to open a door unless it meant she could go home and enjoy the rest of her day off school. My parents struggled to have Sarah realise the importance of taking her blood pressure medication and it wasn't until Sarah's kidney's had almost failed completely that she realised there was nothing more she could do to avoid her condition; Sarah had to go on dialysis to stay alive. 

As Sarah is three years older than me I was pretty oblivious to her situation until we started talking about Sarah's treatment. I would have been about 17 when I sat in on my mum and dad's meeting with Sarah's specialist to talk about transplant options. We were told that the average time on the waiting list for a Kidney was around four years and as my family knew that Sarah wouldn't last that long on dialysis we all put our hand up to donate. 

Parents are usually a favourite option as donors so both my mum, Julie, and my dad, Mark, began testing for compatibility. Julie was ruled out early on due to high blood pressure so Mark continued as Sarah's best bet. Everything was looking up for the transplant but at one of the last hurdles my father was ruled out. As a family we were devastated for the news but also the lost time. It had taken months to get his far and we had nothing to show for it. We were floored with the news when some of Dad's family members from Victoria told us they were starting the testing too but unfortunately this would prove too difficult due to distance. Finally the specialist would consider a 17 year old for the job. 

I was so relieved to finally know that my sister was going to be taken care of and my young, healthy kidneys would be the perfect match and more than compatible. It was all looking great until a scan came back and showed scarring on one of my kidneys. The damage was done by a faulty valve in my ureter, or Reflux Nephropathy. I was ruled out immediately. 

Just as everything looked about as hopeless as we could have imagined, a different specialist took another look at Julie and felt he could control her symptoms and be seen as an option. This 'Kidney Wizard' as I think of him now had Julie and Sarah on an operating table within three months. 

Today Sarah is a completely different person. Whilst she was sick she was spending all but maybe three hours a day in bed or sitting on dialysis for a total of 12 hours a week. Now she works 6 days a week, she has been to uni, enjoys dancing and makeup classes and fits more into a day than I do!

I want to be a part of Red Undies Week to try and get the message across that anyone could be walking around with this disease. I know doctors appointments are a drag but just because you ignore your health, doesn't mean you don't have a problem. Ask for a kidney health check. Kidney Disease is sneaky so sniff it out before it catches you by surprise!"

Hugely inspirational story. So what are you waiting for? Don the red duds, support the cause, and get yourself checked.

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