By BELINDA SCOTT
WHEN Roger Ward woke up vomiting one Saturday morning, he thought he was another victim of a virus which was working its way through the Sherwood Christian Rehabilitation Centre where he works.
The 'bug' was leaving stomach upsets and chest infections in its wake and Roger and his wife, Julie, thought he was just next on the list.
In fact it was a different and much more serious problem he never suspected. He had acute appendicitis and his appendix was about to burst.
But thanks to a swift diagnosis, prompt action, and an emergency operation at Coffs Harbour Health Campus, he has seen the best possible outcome.
New Zealand-born Roger Ward, 44, is a man who scored a second chance at a normal life after four years of being tied to a kidney dialysis machine when his kidneys failed.
A new keyhole surgery procedure introduced to Auckland hospital made it possible for his brother to donate a kidney in 2001, but Roger Ward has to take twice-daily anti-rejection medication. Vomiting means these vital drugs are not being absorbed into his system.
So when he became ill, the Wards contacted his renal specialist, Dr Azeem Abdul Razak, who advised Julie Ward to go to Coffs Harbour Health Campus as a precaution.
"I thought an injection to settle his stomach so he could take his anti-rejection medication and a drip to top up his fluids was all that was needed," Julie Ward said.
"Fortunately the young doctor in Emergency took more notice of the complaints of pains in the stomach."
While Julie Ward was wondering why morphine had been prescribed for the 'flu, the young registrar, who had diagnosed Mr Ward's appendix as the source of his pain, was on the phone to the renal specialist and the health team was organising an ultrasound and preparing for a complex operation.
By Sunday night Roger Ward was minus his appendix but plus a massive 20cm surgical incision and 26 surgical staples. Routine keyhole surgery for his appendix was not an option because of the position of his grafted kidney.
Today, two months after the operation, Roger Ward is back at work, feeling fine and thankful to the skilled medical team that looked after him.
Mrs Ward said they had been extremely fortunate that the complicated appendix operation was able to be carried out in Coffs Harbour.
"In a case like this, it shows how important it is to the hospital to have a specialist on hand," Julie Ward said, "otherwise they would not have been able to do the operation here."
The Ward family and Dr Razak and his family both moved to Coffs Harbour from Sydney in 2004. Nephrologist (renal specialist) Dr Razak was one of eight new specialists appointed to the Coffs Harbour Health Campus last year.
And as someone who has experienced the agony of waiting, then seen his life restored by the donation of a kidney, Roger Ward would like to put in a plea for people to join them organ donor register.