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Thursday Island Elder kidney transplant recipient determined to become beacon of hope

19 August 2021

The thought of needing an organ transplant would be daunting for many of us. However, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, the unknowns can become a huge barrier in receiving this gift of life.

Thanks to a kidney support initiative at Queensland’s Kidney Transplant Service at Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH), the number of Indigenous patients receiving a kidney transplant in Queensland in the past five years has doubled.

The hospital is committed to closing the gap for this population and making transplantation more accessible to people living in remote communities with the help of Indigenous Liaison Officer, Brett Mooney.

Thursday Island Elder, and PA Hospital’s most recent Indigenous kidney transplant recipient, Seriako Stephen, is grateful for the guiding hand that gave him confidence to take the path to a kidney transplant after four years on dialysis.

“Compared to the people I have met here who have been on dialysis for many years, my journey was a short one, but it was challenging. 

“I was very afraid of having a transplant, I didn’t know what to expect; but what I have experienced with the nurses, the doctors and the support staff has built my resilience, my courage and my strength,” said Seriako.

A donor match was found for Seriako in July and he flew from Cairns to PAH immediately to have his transplant the following day.

“I’m grateful I was able to get a match that will give me that longevity of life to spend with my wife Joan and my young family.

“It will enable me to go back to my normal life and run my fishing business. The business creates employment for the vulnerable and disadvantaged people in the Torres Strait and gives people in incarceration an opportunity,” he said.

Seriako is the sixth Indigenous patient to receive a kidney transplant this year and Nephrologist, Dr David Mudge said this was a testament to the support program which is now actively working with communities, particularly in the west and Far North Queensland.

“We know there is more work to be done in this space, but we are proud of the commitment of our team in making kidney health a priority for our indigenous population.

“Our Indigenous Liaison Officer, Brett, is just one of the successful supports for this cohort of patients through their journey with us from diagnosis, through dialysis and, where possible – the gift of life with a kidney transplant.

“He supports the patient to understand the process, providing information about upcoming procedures in their native dialect and ensuring they have culturally appropriate support during their entire stay,” said Nephrologist, Dr David Mudge.

Community sessions held in rural communities such as Mt Isa also help to educate potential transplant recipients about the process. As does the advocacy of successful transplant recipients such as Seriako.

“Educating our Indigenous communities about their own health is so important so they can take real action in preventing chronic disease,” said Seriako.

“Torres Strait has a higher rate of diabetes in this country than our First Nations brothers and sisters, the Aboriginal community. 

“We inherit pre-existing medical complications from generations before us and we need to be on top of that,” he said. 

“I encourage other Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginals living with kidney disease in the region, that when the opportunity comes for a transplant, you prepare yourself and take it with open arms and humbleness. I guarantee you will be in the best professional hands of the medical, nursing, indigenous liaison officers and allied health staff at the PA Hospital.”

Last updated 19 August 2021
Last reviewed 19 August 2021

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