I met Elvis Presley last week. In fact a lot of people met Elvis, including the Minister of Health (as you can see in this photograph). It was indeed a great pleasure to meet him before he gave one of his few live performances at the Mangere Town Centre. You see, this Elvis has kidney disease and had donned his jumpsuit to help raise awareness of the disease at a Live Kidney Donation Aotearoa event, hosted by CM Health in partnership with the Kidney Society Auckland (and supported by the ADHB Transplant Team, Kidney Kids Team, Kidney Health New Zealand, Organ Donation New Zealand and Work and Income).
The Minister of Health, a number of MPs and other dignitaries came together with members of the South Auckland community and Elvis to celebrate the launch of culturally-appropriate educational resources which have been developed for live kidney donors and recipients. The resources are part of a coordinated national effort to raise awareness of kidney disease, why transplantation is most often the preferred treatment option, and the need to increase the number of people donating a kidney. Check out the website for more info.
As you know, kidney disease is very often a complication of diabetes and as such, we have staggering rates of kidney disease in Counties Manukau. At the moment we have about 543 people with severe kidney disease on dialysis in Counties Manukau (of about 3311 people nationally). Of this group in Counties Manukau, 139 people are waiting for a transplant. The average life expectancy of a person on dialysis is just 4 to 5 years.
You only have to visit one of our many dialysis units to see what a huge interruption being on dialysis means for people. It can stop them earning money to support their families and prevent them from having the quality of life they would like to be able to enjoy. Sadly, kidney disease has a particularly devastating effect for our Maaori and Pacific people, who have much higher rates of the disease but who are considerably less likely to either donate a kidney or receive a transplanted kidney. Of the 123 CM Health patients who had a kidney transplant between January 2002 and September 2012, only one was Maaori and six Pacific.
The best option for most people who go into severe renal failure is to have a kidney transplant. In the past, we have relied heavily on kidney donations from those who have passed on but there are never enough kidneys donated in this way to meet demand. If we rely on this type of kidney donation, only half of the people who need a new kidney will ever receive one.
So we now recognize the need to encourage live kidney donations. After all, most of us have a spare, fully functioning kidney and choosing to donate it is a real way of helping treat kidney disease in our community. The good news is that we are already increasing the number of transplants we are completing at CM Health and we have also already trebled the number of kidney donors since this time last year. As a result of this event, I have also added my name to the list and have signed up for consideration as a live donor. I really do believe that this is an effective way to address this burgeoning issue and something many of us can do on an individual level to make a difference.
I’d like to finish by acknowledging and thanking everyone who has worked on this worthwhile project over the last two years, particularly Project Executive, Dr Mark Marshall, and Project Manager, Sneha Shetty, and her team. Thanks also to the Ministry of Health for funding this Government initiative, which is being developed at CM Health and rolled out nationwide. I look forward to watching this gain momentum and hope that people across the country consider donating an organ to save a life.
Elvis has left the building.