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Carey's Story

20th of March, 2021

On the face of it, you’d think Carey Penn, Managing Director of Electrical & Automation Solutions (EAS) was a pretty normal healthy guy. He’d probably like to think even a bit fitter and active than many people his age. But in 2017 he found out he had kidney disease.

There were no obvious signs to make me think I had any serious health problems. I was a bit tired and hadn’t been feeling 100% for a while; but I put it down to putting in long hours building the business and with young kids, most parents are tired. My wife, Gemma, encouraged me to get a check-up and within days my test results were back, showing my kidney function (EGFR) was down to 21%. Which meant I was at stage 4 kidney failure.

Carey

As you can imagine this all came as a bit of a shock. Kidney Health NZ played an important role in helping me understand my illness and the journey I was now on. “I fully support the work they do especially around educating everyone about the simple steps they can take to ensure their own kidney health.”

I delayed moving on to dialysis for as long as possible, but in 2020 my kidney function dropped to a level where I could no longer avoid it and I needed to start peritoneal dialysis. During the two week wait to have the tube inserted and further two weeks before I could start dialysis was my lowest point. However, now dialysis has become part of my daily routine. I compare the meds, exchanges and monitoring my water intake,  the same as cleaning your teeth, it’s just something you have to do. The team of nurses at the Waikato Renal unit have been an amazing support helping me with getting up and running with my dialysis treatment.

While I supposedly should have been taking this time off to rest and recuperate, I instead viewed it as an opportunity to help others. I found being stuck in one location while having dialysis very limiting so set about designing a mobile stand that gave me the freedom to move around at home or work and interact with my family and colleagues.  I then went on to design and manufacture ten of these stands with the help of Mitchell Race Extreme to donate to the renal unit at Waikato Hospital so others could also enjoy that freedom.

During the ups and downs of getting underway with dialysis I continued to run EAS with the support of my team. One of my biggest challenges was altering my routine to make sure I was back in the office for a lunchtime exchange. The overnight machine has made life easier and I now have a good routine. “I found having a tube hanging out of my stomach strange at first. The belt to tuck it away helped but I still find it a bit of a pain, but I don’t really worry about it now.”

My motivation to help others has inspired the whole of EAS as well as my family to get behind Kidney Health NZ.  In August 2020, EAS staff along with family and friends got together to undertake Lugton’s Round the Bridges, raising $5,000 for Kidney Health NZ.  My daughter Molly and her friends also put in an amazing effort to raise nearly $1,000 running a bake sale at Te Kowhai school in December 2020.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for kidney disease and I am now on the wait list for a donor kidney. “I’m really grateful for my supportive friends and family who are going through the process of getting tested to see if they may be able to donate a kidney to me. Having kidney disease is not something I’d choose to have but I’m also not letting it slow me down. I’m staying focussed on the present and dealing with each step in the process as it comes up. Over the last few years I’ve modified my lifestyle – less beers with the boys (not that they seem to mind as they’ve always got a sober driver), healthier food and I’ve upgraded to an e-bike. The new bike means I can still smash out 50k on the hills without feeling exhausted. In fact, I find it makes me feel better not just physically, but mentally too as it sets me up for the week ahead.”

“For me the biggest challenge of my kidney disease has been my lack of energy. I don’t really do half speed. I am looking forward to the energy a new kidney will bring although the rest of the team at EAS are not so sure they’ll cope with me at full capacity again”.