An endowment fund has been established at The Sunrise Foundation to help with the future care of dialysis patients in Tairāwhiti-Gisborne.

There are many causes of kidney disease, high blood pressure and diabetes being the most common. Uncontrolled diabetes negatively affects quality of life and can be fatal. With the increase of diabetes on the East Coast kidney disease and dialysis treatment are on in the rise.

Prior to the opening of the Dialysis Unit at Gisborne Hospital many local dialysis patients were required to spend extended time in Waikato Hospital receiving treatment.

Hauora Tairāwhiti opened the unit in 2012 and provides the essential equipment required to run the service, which is vital to dialysis patients that cannot administer their dialysis at home.

Sandy Hay, Hauora Tairāwhiti Renal Clinical Nurse Specialist, says the health dollar is tight across the country. “Hauora Tairāwhiti does a very good job with the funding they have. The Dialysis Unit has all the basic resources required to run efficiently, but there are some things they just can’t afford to fund.”

There is a small army of dedicated fundraisers, including staff, nurses, patients and Gisborne Host Lions Club, who work tirelessly to fundraise for equipment over and above that supplied by the district health board.

They are currently fundraising for a portable ultrasound machine. Sandy says “although not an essential piece of equipment, it would be useful to have in the unit. We can sometimes borrow one from another department, but if not our patients have to travel to Waikato Hospital to be treated.”

She added that “dialysis can cause patients anxiety and depression in relation to their illness. On top of that travelling to Waikato for treatment can cause angst and unnecessary worry.”

Lynn Mackie, Hauora Tairāwhiti Registered Nurse Outpatients, says the Cancer Society offers incredible support for oncology patients and they would like to be able to offer similar services to dialysis patients.

“The harsh reality is most patients will be on dialysis for the rest of their lives. We would like to be able to make it as enjoyable as possible. We hope the fund will grow enough so we can help our patients by giving them pamper sessions and patient WIFI would be good too, they are in the unit for a long time each week.”

Meril Findson is a member of Gisborne Host Lions Club and also a dialysis patient. She spends five and a half hours, three days a week, on dialysis. She enjoys her visits and the chance to connect with like-minded people. She says “the patients and staff have become like family. We have a strong connection to each other, the staff and nurses at the unit are amazing and look after us very well.”

Sandy believes dialysis patients are tenacious. “They come in and get on with it. Many of them also volunteer in the community and are helping to grow the Dialysis Tairāwhiti Endowment Fund for future patients. We’re happy to do what we can to help as well.”

She acknowledges that the people volunteering their time now to grow the Dialysis Tairāwhiti Fund know it is a long term project and they are fundraising for the future good.  She says “we have a high incidence of diabetes on the East Coast and have experienced a marked increase in the number of people requiring dialysis since the unit opened. We expect this to keep increasing in the future”.

Dialysis nurses have run countless raffles, the Lions Club has helped with cutting, transporting and selling firewood, and Sandy and her partner donate the koha they receive from working at the Lions burger van at the speedway.

The Dialysis Tairāwhiti Fund is growing steadily through anonymous donations and people giving small amounts regularly by automatic payment. Gisborne District Council do a gold coin collection for dress down day which they donate to a named charity each year, last year they chose to donate to the Dialysis Unit and this was added to the fund.

Maree Young, Gisborne Host Lions Club, says their club’s wider connection to the community helps with the fundraising efforts and gets the word out to a wider audience. ”Our purpose is to fundraise and give back by way of donations to the community. The Dialysis Unit is a great cause and Gisborne Host Lions Club has been delighted to support them.”

All donations to the Dialysis Tairāwhiti  Endowment Fund are invested, protected and grown to keep up with inflation. The surplus investment income will be returned to the Dialysis Unit at Gisborne Hospital each and every year forever.