Selfless life saving gift for a friend

Andy Bryant (at right) with Conal Beban at the World Transplant Games in Perth.
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When Andy Bryant’s good friend Conal Beban was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in 2017, Andy asked him ‘‘what do you need?’’, ‘‘A new kidney’’ Conal replied.

It wasn’t a request – just an honest answer.

This started both men on a life changing journey.

Andy visited Conal in Nelson a couple of months after he was diagnosed.

‘‘He looked like death warmed up, just shithouse, his life had changed pretty much over night,’’ Andy said.

Andy went through the compatibility process for becoming a living donor which included physical health tests, with counselling sessions to ensure he understood what he was doing and risks involved.

He said, post operation, with one kidney, his physical well-being and lifestyle wouldn’t change.

Once Andy had gone through the process and been accepted as a donor, he was then ‘parked’ until Conal’s condition deteriorated enough.

‘‘They try to prolong it to get as much life out of his current kidneys. There is no guarantee the donor process is successful, mine might last for only five minutes,’’ he said.

After going through tests again and making sure he was still willing, Andy and Conal went to Christchurch Hospital for the transplant in January 2022.

Andy said Conal couldn’t be better now he has his kidney

Within 24 hours of the operation, from the floor above in the hospital, Conal sent Andy a message about how amazing he felt and the ‘fog’ had already lifted from his thinking.

Another message the next day said “bro, your kidney is the shit!”

Andy said they both had no idea about the impact on their lives post operation.

‘‘Both of us underestimated the effects it would have on us … what we’d get involved with post operation, the experiences we’ve already had , Conal’s whole outlook on life is much improved, he barely drinks, eats well, a much better attitude, much more grateful of the simple things in life.’’

Andy moved back home to Ashburton from Dunedin a couple of weeks before the operation, and secured a job as a draftsman with Chilton + Mayne, who knew he would be off work for around 8-12 weeks.

‘‘They were really good about it, so I’m pretty grateful for that opportunity,’’ he said.

The men after the operation

Andy and Conal took part in the World Transplant Games in Perth earlier this year.

With participants from all over the world, the games celebrate successful transplantation and the gift of life.

‘‘It’s a celebration of life and people overcoming or achieving things that their health hadn’t previously allowed.’’

There was also some exceptional athletes there, Andy said.

For some of the competitors, it’s their way of saying thanks to their donor.

Andy competed in the 5km run, petanque, 100 metre sprint, long jump and ball throw.

Andy and Conal were a rare pairing at the games as most organ donations come from deceased donors. Since returning from the games, both Andy and Conal have become much more active trying to increase awareness with organ donation.

‘‘We’ve become part of a really special and unique community where everyone is grateful for their second chance at life.’’

They both are aiming to attend the next World Transplant Games in Dresden, Germany in 2025.

Andy said anyone who is considering donating an organ should have a chat to someone.

‘‘The first thing is get checked and look after yourself, there is a network out there and you can talk to people.’’

The Ashburton Kidney Society is one resource for people considering donating a kidney.

Society president Charlie Hill said the society was formed 40 years ago by a group of people who were having kidney problems.

Charlie got involved with the group when his daughter Sheree’s kidney failed in 2007.

Charlie donated his kidney to Sheree, who was in her mid 20’s at the time.

Charlie’s wife Esme has had both her kidneys replaced, the first transplant in 2008, with a kidney donated by her brother-in-law.

Then in 2012 she had a second kidney transplant from a deceased donor.

Charlie said the Ashburton Kidney Society is happy to offer advice to anyone considering donating a kidney and stressed the importance of talking to social workers and doctors to be fully informed.

The society assists people going through a kidney transplant with support, fuel vouchers and care packages.

‘‘We’re a group of volunteers, we rely on donations and fundraising,’’ Charlie said.

If you would like more information on kidney donation or to help with fundraising, email: [email protected]