Transplant recipients stepping out in style for Glow Walk

Aug 29 2013

Michael Wrattan

Michael Wrattan, undergoing plasma treatment, with his mum and kidney donor Christine.

The Hunter Transplant Research Foundation (HTRF) is holding its first ever Glow Walk on September 7 to celebrate the gift of life and raise funds for research into transplant issues like chronic rejection and elevated cancer risks.

The walk from Nobbys Surf Club to the lighthouse and back is only 2km in length but will represent a major step for those organ recipients participating, along with their family, friends and, in some cases, donors.

With the word ‘Glow’ signifying restored vitality, walkers will receive a lanyard-mounted glow stick. Organisers are also encouraging ’80s-style fluoro fashion by offering prizes for the “loudest” outfits.

“Improved outcomes for recipients and live donors have been achieved over time because research findings have been carefully applied to clinical treatments,” Professor Adrian Hibberd, from the Newcastle Transplant Unit at John Hunter Hospital, said.

“However, major problems still exist, like chronic rejection, tolerance and transplant-related cancer. The good news is they can be solved by scientific research combined with collaboration between transplant scientists and clinicians.”

Kidney recipient Michael Wrattan was just 19 when a mystery infection induced renal failure. He endured strong medication and dialysis until, at 23, he received a kidney from his mother Christine. Ten years later, Michael is now married and the father of two “miracle” children.

“I was initially told that the treatments would affect fertility but seven years after my transplant we went through IVF and had a daughter at the first attempt. Two years later, we had a son naturally,” Michael said.

“At the moment I’m undergoing plasma treatment because there is some minor rejection but overall it’s a small sacrifice. The transplant has given me back a normal life.”

Along with his wife Shelley, children Aleyah and Blake, and Christine, Michael is looking forward to the Glow Walk. With the Newcastle Transplant Unit currently performing one kidney transplant operation per week, organisers are expecting a large and colourful crowd.

* Professor Adrian Hibberd is Emeritus Consultant in Transplantation at Hunter New England Health and co-founder of the HTRF along with Dr Paul Trevillian. HTRF is a subcommittee of the HMRI Foundation. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.