Kidney Donor Walks New Zealand For Cause

A Whangarei woman, who donated a kidney to her husband, is setting off today to walk the length of New Zealand to encourage others to donate their organs.

There are currently 170 Northlanders undertaking dialysis to keep them alive. Of these, 36 are medically suitable to be listed on the national kidney transplant list and are waiting for a suitable donor.

The main cause of kidney failure in New Zealand is diabetes.  Northland statistics from 2011 show that 32.2 per cent of Maori were affected by diabetes, 1.7 per cent of Pacific Islanders and 66.2 per cent of other nationalities.

Currently 71 Northlanders have had a functioning kidney transplant and Hugh Cole-Baker is one of these, thanks to the generosity of his wife Ros.

Mr Cole-Baker struggled with kidney disease for 10 years, resulting in renal failure and the need for dialysis, before his wife donated one of her kidneys last year.

The transplant was a success and, with Hugh’s new lease on life, the couple are passionate about reducing the waiting list of the 600 New Zealanders in need of a transplant.

Says Mrs Cole-Baker: “The only way to avoid dialysis is to have a kidney transplant from a deceased donor or a living person. Donating a kidney will make a real difference to the life of a person with kidney disease. In the words of one donor, ‘You'll never do anything better than donate a kidney’.”

The Hugh-Bakers, who run a Whangarei Heads-based bed and breakfast, set off from Cape Reinga today to undertake the Te Araroa Trail with Mrs Cole-Baker walking and mountain biking and Hugh arriving at each destination via campervan. At each stop they plan to share the facts about live kidney donation and the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, conducting talks in towns and handing out brochures.

They aim to be in Wellington by Christmas and are allowing up to five months to reach Bluff.

The Hugh-Bakers are familiar faces at Whangarei Hospital’s renal unit and the team there fully support them in their plight, says Clinical nurse specialist Tafale Maddren.

“We applaud them for their efforts to promote awareness for organ donation. There are so many people dependant on dialysis – Hugh was one of them. His life was limited while on dialysis and now he has a new lease on life.”

Renal nurse manager Cheryle Kiwi says the majority of transplants are from deceased donors and there is a need for an increase in live donors.

She adds that it is important to discuss organ/tissue donation with family members before choosing to donate organs after death.

The Ministry of Health is making funding available to selected DHBs to recruit donor liaison co-ordinators to support donor recruitment and co-ordinate services for donors and patients requiring renal transplantation. This will help the aim of the National Renal Transplant Service to increase the number of renal transplants by approximately 10 per annum by 2018/19.

There is a robust system to ensure donating a kidney is not going to be detrimental to a donor’s health, says Ms Kiwi. On average, a donor will be require a recovery period of around two months.

A national database in Auckland tracks all patients listed and awaiting transplant. As soon as a kidney becomes available, a matching recipient is identified.

However, with the low donor rate in New Zealand, the shortage is such that one Whangarei women has been on dialysis for 12 years.

“Dialysis can be for a lifetime,” says Ms Kiwi. “Dialysis gives people a life but it is a hard life.”

Leading up to the awareness campaign, Mrs Cole-Baker had been bringing her fitness level up by taking part in walks of various lengths and carrying different pack loads. Prior to setting off, she admitted to feeling “slightly overwhelmed at times when I realise the enormity of the journey”.

“I’m a bit scared about getting lost in some of the wilder sections. But also when we receive letters of encouragement and shared experience from strangers, we feel positive, and that it’s worthwhile doing this. That’s very satisfying.

“Mostly I’m pretty excited.” 

To discuss donating a kidney, contact the transplant co-ordinator service on: 430 4100 extn 8508.

The schedule for Northland:


·         19th  Leave Cape Reinga

·         19th  The Bluff

·         20th  Hukatere

·         21th  Ahipara or Kaitaia

·         22nd  Kaitaia

·         23rd  Herekino Forest to Takahue Saddle/Warner Road junction

·         24th  Raetea Forest to SH1 Mangamuka, to Omahuta Forest Kauri Sanctuary

·         25th  Puketi Forest to Puketi Recreation Centre

·         26th  Kerikeri 

·         27th  Opua

·         28th  Ferry across to Waikare Rd, Waikare Marae

·         29th  Russell Forest to ^ Oakura Bay

·         30th  Morepork and Onekainga Tracks to Otamure Bay(DOC)/Whananaki


·         1st Matapouri 

·         2nd Ngunguru

·         3rd Mackerel Track and to Tidesong

·         4th Whangarei

·         5th Whangarei

·         6th Marsden Point to Waipu Cove

·         7th Brynderwyn Track to Mangawhai Heads

(From left)Renal nurse manager Cheryle Kiwi and clinical nurse specialists Kim Calkin and Tafale Maddren give the thumbs up to Ros and Hugh Cole-Baker as they set off to travel the length of New Zealand. (Photo Jodi Fraser)

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