Fight for Bowral renal unit continues

FAMILY FOCUS: Rebecca's mum, dad and brother, Suzanne, Kevin and Scott Douglass with her and her husband James Robins on their wedding day. Photo: supplied.
FAMILY FOCUS: Rebecca's mum, dad and brother, Suzanne, Kevin and Scott Douglass with her and her husband James Robins on their wedding day. Photo: supplied.

“It’s embarrassing to think that the hospital is still the same  as it was 20 years ago.”

Rebecca Robins is 40-years-old and has lived in the Highlands all her life. 

When she was 19 she went into renal failure and after complications, was forced to undergo dialysis. 

As there was no renal unit at Bowral and District Hospital, Rebecca’s mum and dad drove her to and from Liverpool Hospital at least three times a week. 

“Mum and dad both worked full time and they would often swap over at the Picton Road exit to work around their work schedules,” she said. 

“The travel didn’t just affect me, but both mum and dad and my younger brother.

“If I didn't have these people in my life, I would have to rely on the system and the system is broken. It was broken 20 years ago and it is still broken.”

In 2000 Rebecca underwent her first transplant after her mum donated one of her kidneys. 

The kidney lasted seven years before Rebecca was back on dialysis twice a week. 

In 2008 her dad donated her a new kidney and that also lasted seven years. 

Rebecca’s third kidney came from her husband last year. 

“Mum gave me my 20s, gave dad me my 30s and my husband gave me my 40s and hopefully more,” she said. “I’m very lucky.”

While Rebecca’s most recent blood test showed some of the best results she’s ever had, there is still a possibility she may have to go back on dialysis at some point. 

“I could end up on dialysis again and I don't even know if a forth transplant is an option,” she said. 

“I still go to Sydney every couple of weeks for check-ups of my new kidney and all the other things that go with having chronic kidney disease.”

After living with renal issues for 21 years, Rebecca can’t understand why there is still no renal unit at Bowral hospital. 

“They don’t even know what to do with me when I go there because they have no renal knowledge,” she said. 

“If I am sick or have an infection I have to go to Westmead Hospital which is a three hour round trip,” she said.

“And it’s not just a matter of getting in my car and driving up there, I have to organise for someone to take me and drive me home.

“I usually end up staying for a few days because there are no renal resources in Bowral. Something simple becomes a major exercise. Once again, putting extra stress on everyone.”

Rebecca said the absence of a renal unit at Bowral Hospital could create a lonely existence for renal patients. 

“With all the travel we don’t have the luxury of spending a lot of time with family and friends, and none of the patients in the community know each other because we all have to travel away from the area,” she said. 

“It’s a real shambles.”

An average month for Rebecca  consists of specialist check-ups, GP visits, blood tests, podiatry, psychology, pain management, with exercise physiology and physio therapy weekly. She has to travel hours for each of these appointments. 

“I have fought hard to maintain my right to live a normal life and have an education and career,” she said.

“This fight could and should have become easier in the last 20 years. It has not. We need a local renal service.”