Electrical & Automation Solutions (EAS) signed on as a sponsor of Kidney Health NZ in 2019. Kidney Health is a topic close to our hearts as Carey Penn, Managing Director of EAS, is currently on his own journey with kidney disease.
On the face of it, you’d think Carey was a pretty normal, healthy guy. He’d probably like to think even a bit fitter and active than many people his age. But in 2017 he found out he had kidney disease.
There were no obvious signs to make Carey think he had any serious health problems. He was a bit tired and hadn’t been feeling 100% for a while; but he put it down to putting in long hours building the business and with young kids, most parents are tired. Carey’s wife, Gemma, encouraged him to get a check-up and within days his test results were back, showing his kidney function (EGFR) was down to 21%. Which meant he was at stage 4 kidney failure .
As you can imagine this all came as a bit of a shock. Kidney Health NZ played an important role in helping Carey understand his illness and the journey he was now on. Carey says “I fully support the work they do especially around educating everyone about the simple steps they can take to ensure their own kidney health.” As Michael Campbell, General Manager of Kidney Health NZ says, “early detection is key in reducing the impact kidney disease has on people, their families and the wider community.”
In 2020, Carey’s kidney function dropped to a level where he needed to start peritoneal dialysis. Peritoneal dialysis involves the patient being hooked up to a fluid called dialysate four times a day which helps with removing fluid and waste products from the abdominal cavity. The fluid is placed into the abdominal cavity and remains there attracting and absorbing the waste materials until it is drained. The exchange takes about 30 – 40 minutes each time.
While some may have taken this as an opportunity to take a break, Carey instead viewed it as an opportunity to help others. He found being stuck in one location while having dialysis very limiting so set about designing a mobile stand that gave him the freedom to move around at home or work and interact with his family and colleagues. Carey then went on to design and manufacture ten of these stands with the help of Mitchell Race Extreme to donate to the renal unit at Waikato Hospital so others could also enjoy that freedom.
Carey’s dedication to helping others with kidney disease has inspired the whole of EAS as well as his family to get behind Kidney Health NZ. In August 2020, EAS staff along with family and friends got together to undertake Lugton’s Round the Bridges, raising $5,000 for Kidney Health NZ. Carey’s daughter Molly and her friends also put in an amazing effort to raise nearly $1,000 running a bake sale at Te Kowhai school in December 2020.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for kidney disease and Carey is now on the wait list for a donor kidney. Carey says “I’m really grateful for my supportive friends and family who are going through the process of getting tested to see if they may be able to donate a kidney to me. Having kidney disease is not something I’d choose to have but I’m also not letting it slow me down. I’m staying focussed on the present and dealing with each step in the process as it comes up. Over the last few years I’ve modified my lifestyle – less beers with the boys (not that they seem to mind as they’ve always got a sober driver), healthier food and I’ve upgraded to an e-bike. The new bike means I can still smash out 50k on the hills without feeling exhausted. In fact, I find it makes me feel better not just physically, but mentally too as it sets me up for the week ahead.”
While 2021 may not have been the best year for many, for Carey it certainly was. With the generous gift from his mate, Piete Vreede, Carey had a kidney transplant.
While still on many different drugs to support his recovery, the freedom from not having to undertake dialysis and the difference in energy from having a functioning kidney are huge.
Carey continues to give back, sharing his story to help raise awareness of kidney disease. Check out some of the recent articles that have been published about his journey.
What can you do to help?
First and foremost look after your own health.
You can also donate to Kidney Health NZ on their webpage or look out for the next challenge the EAS team decide to take on and make a contribution to our fundraising.