Greg has new lease of life

Kate PollardCountryman

Katanning farmer Greg Kowald is on top of the world.

After 16 years of suffering kidney disease, including four years of haemodialysis, these days Greg's got a bounce in his step, colour in his cheeks and a sparkle in his eyes.

A month after a kidney transplant in January, Greg felt that good he signed up a lease property and increased his cropping program from 450 hectares to 860ha.

This year's seeding program is a turning point for the Kowalds who have been on a long road to recovery.

Greg's back behind the tractor helping wife Liisa and son Peter put in 400ha of Crusher canola, 250ha of Baudin barley, 100ha of Calingiri wheat and Kojonup oats.

When Greg first got sick, Peter was only five years old.

"My son turns 22 in July and he would never remember seeing me well," Greg said. "I've just been sick all his life. That gets at you a bit."

Before the transplant, Greg had to pace himself around haemodialysis, a process that removes extra fluid and waste from the body by constantly filtering the blood, to be able to work on the farm. The dialysis ruled their lives.

Plans to travel couldn't be made on the spur of the moment - the Kowalds had to ring ahead to book into a haemodialysis centre if they wanted to go away.

Liisa, through the Fresenius Medical Centre, spent weeks training to learn how to set up and monitor the haemodialysis machine.

She also had to learn how to insert a needle and hook Greg up to the machine which she had to disinfect after each dialysis session.

Greg's kidneys failed 10 years after he was first diagnosed with kidney disease and he started haemodialysis treatment in Perth three days before Peter finished a degree at Muresk, in November 2009.

From there, Greg's early dialysis sessions were closer to the farm than Perth but still a two-hour drive to Albany. Liisa would drive him three times a week for the five-hour session, leaving the farm at 5.30am for a 7.30am start.

A haemodialysis machine was later installed at Katanning Hospital, a 30-minute drive from home.

The couple would travel in four times a week for a four-hour treatment with Liisa making the trip an hour ahead of Greg.

When dialysis was increased to five days a week, the machine was set up in their home on the farm.

Now Greg says he can walk up stairs and no longer has the aches and pains he suffered for years.

Just before the transplant in January, the second after the first in March 2011 failed to take, he was in the final stages of getting a kidney from a sister when he got a call from his specialist.

"Your life is really ruled by dialysis but without it you can't survive," Greg said.

As an organ recipient, Greg is looking forward to what the future will bring.

"The last five months have been amazing and I'm hoping the new kidney will last 30 years," he said.

"For anyone considering organ donation, there are no negatives for the people donating but huge positives for those recovering."

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