Amidst a daunting and huge life-changing transplant surgery, two brothers and their partners have found solace in staying at Rānui House.
Waimate’s Kelvin Sadler underwent a kidney transplant on May 23 2022 at Christchurch Hospital. Almost two weeks after his major surgery and he sits on a couch in Rānui House’s lounge, bright and chatty. “Rānui House has just allowed us to stop because you’re away from all the daily pressures. It’s just been amazing. We’ve literally come up here and stopped and recuperated,” says Kelvin.
“12 days post-surgery and I am feeling 100% better.” “We feel so cared for,” adds Kelvin’s wife Leanne.
Kelvin, a stock agent for PGG Wrightson, was diagnosed 25 years ago with IgA nephropathy, meaning his kidney’s health was in decline. It has brought with it debilitating fatigue and pain, which he often suffered through in silence at work. Seven years ago, his kidney had dropped from 23% to 16% function. At this stage, Kelvin was told if it carried on like this he ‘would need a transplant within 12 months’ and needed a donor. He phoned his brother Allan, who has lived in Australia for over 20 years, and shared the news of his diagnosis with him for the first time. Allan was the first person he asked to see if he would consider being a donor. For Allan, being able to offer his kidney to his older brother was a no-brainer. “It’s your brother, what else do you do,” says Allan.
Over the next seven years, Kelvin’s kidney function reduced to its pre-transplant function of 7%. “We have got to some pretty dark places in the last two years,” says Leanne. “Last year they pushed the go button for surgery but because of Covid, we couldn’t get Allan into the country, even with a medical exemption,” says Kelvin. Kelvin and wife Leanne then started looking for a plan B in New Zealand. Leanne began her testing but unfortunately was not a suitable donor in the end.
When a good friend heard of their plight, she offered a kidney and began her testing. She was close to completion when the border reopening announcement came. With Allan back on board, Kelvin then pushed for the surgery to go ahead as soon as possible. Kelvin and Allan were granted the May 23 date for surgery, with just seven weeks to prepare. “It was almost just as well we didn’t have much warning because we weren’t able to over analyse it and we just went into action mode with all the things we had to prepare. By the time I came to Christchurch I was exhausted,” says Kelvin.
Allan and his partner, Kylie went into self-isolation in Australia before traveling to Christchurch, with Kylie working from home for two months to ensure they did not risk catching Covid and having to cancel the surgery. While the brothers have always been close the experience has brought them even closer, together with their respective partners. It was an emotional reunion in Kelvin’s hospital room when Allan was wheeled in to see him for the first time on day three. They’ve since named their ‘new’ kidney Alvin and enjoy checking in on Alvin daily. “I hope the kidney they’ve left him with is as good as the one I’ve got,” says Kelvin and laughs.
Two weeks on from surgery and Kelvin, Leanne, Allan and Kylie have been spending their days enjoying each other’s company, while exploring Christchurch’s central city. At Rānui House, the couples have their own apartments, where they can do their own laundry and cooking. Although they have enjoyed cooking in the communal cooking and lounge space.
They’ve been passing the time playing cards, reminiscing about old times, and meeting fellow residents. So comfortable have they become, Kelvin announced they were ‘home’, after arriving back from their first outing to watch their son play rugby in Waihi. “We have felt very nurtured in this environment,” says Leanne.
For Allan, it was a relief knowing that Kylie and Leanne, and also his Mum, were together while he and Kelvin were in hospital. “Having them so close to the hospital so they were able to come and go freely was huge for me. Also having such a comfortable and warm place to recover and share some well overdue time with family was truly amazing.”
Leanne and Kelvin expect to stay at the House for another month while Kelvin’s monitoring continues. Having just purchased new bikes, they’re looking forward to getting fit and seeing more of Christchurch before heading home. For Kelvin, it’s the first time in over two years he has been able to exercise.
He now can’t wait to be able to say ‘yes’ to his 11-year-old son when he asks him to run around with him.