The University of Newcastle, Australia

Walk to shine light on organ transplant tolerance

Friday, 12 September 2014

One of Australia's youngest kidney transplant recipients will join hundreds of people for a fluoro-lit twilight stroll along Nobbys Breakwall on Saturday, September 13, in the second annual Glow Walk.

Glow Walk 2014

Five-year-old Charlie O'Sullivan, of Morpeth, was just 16-months old when he underwent a transplant operation, with his mother Sally being the live donor.

"We found out when Charlie was three weeks old that he would need a transplant because he had a posterior [obstructed] urethral valve," Sally says. "He was close to requiring dialysis but after having the operation his doctor said Charlie would feel better than he'd ever felt in his life – it was amazing.

"He was certainly one of the youngest recipients at the time but the surgeons were more concerned about his weight. They like children to be 10 kilograms but Charlie was only 8.9 for his operation."

Charlie now takes immunosuppression medication morning and night and is able to play soccer, go skateboarding and attend school. Sally says she tries not to think about the known risk factors and side effects associated with the therapy as there is currently no alternative.

"When the HMRI Building was being built I remember driving past and thinking to myself, 'go forth and research people'," she adds. "Charlie's future is incredibly bright."

Professor Adrian Hibberd, Emeritus Consultant in Transplantation with Hunter New England Health, says organ rejection remains an ongoing concern, with studies showing that the use of immunosuppression therapy elevates the patient's cancer risks – particularly for cervical, breast and urinary tract cancers, as well as non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

To help raise funds for further transplant research, the O'Sullivan family will be donning their fluoro clothes and painting their faces to join the Glow Walk at Nobbys Beach.

More than 300 people participated last year, despite a timing clash with the federal election – organisers are now hoping to exceed 500.

The first 200 to enter receive a free cap and glowstick. There will be open beach touch football sessions with Robbie O'Davis, a clown painting faces and creating balloon animals, kidney health checks and butterfly kites flying overhead.

Glow Walk registrations will be accepted on the day, or via the Hunter Transplant Research Foundation website www.htrf.net.au

HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.

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