Southland Kidney Society Invercargill

Transplant pair relishing gift of life

By KIMBERLEY CRAYTON-BROWN - The Southland Times - October 2010

Rex McLean and Allan Sycamore

59 Helmsdale Street
Invercargill 9810
Phone: (03) 217 2363

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For Invercargill men Rex McLean and Allan Sycamore today is not just any other day.

Today is Mr McLean's birthday, a birthday he would not have reached if it had not been for his neighbour giving him a kidney five years ago.

For Mr Sycamore, today marks 21 years since he received a life-saving donor kidney after a teenage girl was involved in a car accident.

"We regularly think of the donor's parents. Twenty-one years is a long time and we've spilled many a tear thinking about them," Mr Sycamore said.

His wife, Hazel, said it was important that people discuss their wishes with their family, because ultimately the family would decide what happened to organs.

Before a patient gets to the transplant stage they have a challenging, and varied, road ahead.

"We are totally different," Mr Sycamore said. "Each person seems to have a different story to tell. We've all got kidneys dying but we're all on a different path."

They all praised the work of the staff at Dunedin Hospital, and said they still visit them when they are in the area, and have made some life-long friends from their time there.

Before the men could have kidney transplants, they had to undergo dialysis and ensure they were healthy enough for the surgery.

There are two types of dialysis – haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Both Mr Sycamore and Mr McLean were on haemodialysis, with the machine set up in their homes where they spent up to eight hours a day, three days a week.

"It really is a life support machine," Mrs Sycamore said. "Without it they are going to die."

Diane McLean said they had known for about 10 months that neighbour Colin Dempster was going to give Mr McLean a kidney.

"The moment Colin heard Rex had renal disease he came to the door and said `Rex, I've come to give you a kidney'," she said.

"Rex looked at him and said `It's not like borrowing your trailer and I'm going to give it back tomorrow'." And Mr Dempster's reply? "It would be just like a good day's fishing."

Now, every year on Mr McLean's birthday, he and Mr Dempster go fishing.

Mrs McLeod said Mr Dempster was extremely proud of what he did, and she said it was an amazing thing, the gift of life.

"He's just a very special person. We call him our brother now."


There are between 40 and 50 people in Southland on dialysis

There are about 40 people in Southland with transplanted kidneys

The Southland Kidney Organisation meets informally every second month and gives people a chance to talk to the others who have had similar experiences