Giving kids a better life
There are only four nephrologists in New Zealand and Dr William Wong is one of them.
It is likely you will have met him if yours is one of the 1200 families that has a child born with abnormal kidneys or congenital kidney disease.
Dr Wong is the director of paediatric nephrology at Starship children's hospital and has served in the field for 18 years.
He was the second kidney specialist in this country after training under New Zealand's first nephrologist Dr Max Morris 22 years ago.
"I enjoy it because I like a challenge," he says. "You see the patients and you get them well again. They run around and they are well. It's very gratifying to see. Within a few weeks of their transplant, they are living almost normal lives. It's an area which is often changing with a lot of new development which keeps things exciting."
Dr Wong has been seeing some of his patients since they were babies and will be with them throughout their teen years too.
"We start off with dialysis treatment. That is a big part of our work. Children are often very sick at the beginning and we've got to get them back to a state where they are able to lead healthier, better lives. That is very resource intensive and we need machines for that ... patients can't survive without dialysis."
Children on peritoneal dialysis can be treated at home but haemodialysis requires kids to visit the hospital and is reserved for serious cases.
A haemodialysis machine cleans the patient's blood by running it through an artificial kidney before returning it to the body.
That means sitting still for four-hour sessions, three or four times a week and it costs roughly $100,000 a year to help one person, Dr Wong says.
Starship has two haemodialysis machines and four children on haemodialysis at present.
The Mad Butcher and Suburban Newspapers Community Trust and Kidney Kids, is fundraising to buy four haemodialysis machines for the first-ever national dedicated Paediatric Haemodialysis Unit at Starship.
It has called the exercise Project Kidney and needs $132,000 to achieve its goal and help make a difference for the many youngsters affected from all over the country.
Any extra proceeds will go towards the unit and additional equipment.
"Just a dollar from each of our readers would pay for these machines many times over," trust chairman and Suburban Newspapers general manager David Penny says.
"This is one of those causes that we should all support in whatever way we can. Kidney disease is widespread and could affect any one of us or our families," he says.
Dr Wong says diabetes, diet and other lifestyle choices are often factors contributing to the problem among adults.
But many children are the victims of genetics. "They're born with it and the causes are evident in children from birth right through to 16 or 17 years old," he says.
HOW YOU CAN HELP: Donations can be made at the Western Leader, 2 Waipareira Ave, Henderson, or posted to Project Kidney, Mad Butcher and Suburban Newspapers Community Trust, PO Box 92815, Penrose, Auckland. You can also bank your contribution direct into the Project Kidney account 03 0243 0268896 00 at any branch of Westpac.