Nobbys Beach will become a sea of colour on Saturday, September 7, as around 300 people don their fanciest fluoro fashions for the 7th consecutive Glow Walk.
The event supports the Hunter Transplant Research Foundation’s fundraising efforts and has become an annual gathering for organ recipients, donors and their respective families and friends, along with medical staff at John Hunter Hospital.
This year a 4-kilometre ‘Glow Run’ has been added to capitalise on the popularity of fun runs, which will be followed by the traditional 2-kilometre stroll along Nobbys breakwall. Zumba dancing, face painting and entertainment will start at 4pm.
“Since Glow Walk began, the funding has been extremely useful for our transplantation research program. We fund an annual project grant and operate a laboratory,” Dr Paul Trevillian, Director of Transplantation at John Hunter Hospital, says.
“People come from interstate to support the event, and the attention it draws to the transplant cause is equally important.
“Even though things have improved greatly over the past decade, we still have an urgent need for donors. Currently we’re averaging one transplant operation a week in the Hunter – live kidney donations have dropped slightly, while the rates for deceased donors have increased.”
Affiliated with HMRI, the Hunter-based research team is currently collaborating with University of Newcastle and University of Sydney researchers on a pre-clinical study investigating heart transplant tolerance. Their goal is to deceive the immune system into accepting the new organ by pre-injecting donor antigens into the patient’s liver. This could limit or potentially eliminate the need for ongoing immunosuppression therapy.
“The downside of taking lifelong anti-rejection drugs is that it can increase the patient’s risk of cancer, particularly skin cancer, so we’re testing new ways of boosting the body’s tolerance,” Dr Trevillian added.
Another research project underway involves micro-sampling, where drug levels and kidney function could be tested from a finger-prick droplet of blood. If successful, patients would post their blood samples from remote areas, sparing them a long-distance drive to the hospital for testing.
The team is also exploring the use of artificial intelligence in patient selection for organ transplantation and ongoing treatment decision-making.
“As a transplant recipient of 19 years, I’ve seen amazing advances in this field and that’s why I’m so passionate about medical research,” Glow Walk organiser Alison Brown adds.
“The Glow Walk is an afternoon of guaranteed healthy fun, laughter and atmosphere galore. It’s all about uniting together to raise awareness and vital funds for transplant research here in the Hunter.”
Among the grateful kidney recipients on Saturday will be Erin Farrell of Waratah and Kurri’s Melanie Andrews.
Mrs Farrell was diagnosed with polycystic kidneys and, in 2013, received a kidney from her sister.
“I wasn’t on dialysis at that time, but I was certainly heading that way,” she says. “When my sister offered to donate I was really reluctant to accept at first, but it was just the most amazing experience for us. The operation went brilliantly – I give lots of credit to the surgeons and staff at John Hunter Hospital.”
Mrs Andrews was on dialysis for 4½ years as a complication of diabetes, which was further exacerbated by the rigours of pregnancy. She received a kidney from a deceased donor four years ago.
“The difference it made to me was unbelievable – I often wonder now how I ever fitted dialysis into my life,” she says.
“I had a little daughter to bring up and the transplant coincided with her starting school. It meant I could do all the little things as a mother – she is nine now, and the reason to keep me going.”
Registrations for Glow Walk are being taken at the event from 4pm.