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Dawn's 16th year on dialysis

Dawn Johnston undergoes another five-hour treatment on a dialysis machine in the renal unit at Lismore Base Hospital, watched by grand-daughter, Alice Dwyer, 15, and daughter Bronwyn Dwyer.
Dawn Johnston undergoes another five-hour treatment on a dialysis machine in the renal unit at Lismore Base Hospital, watched by grand-daughter, Alice Dwyer, 15, and daughter Bronwyn Dwyer. Jay Cronan

WHEN Dawn Johnston goes into Lismore Base Hospital tomorrow for another five-hour treatment, it will mark her 16th year of receiving life-saving dialysis three times a week.

Since the grandmother of five – the longest-surviving dialysis patient on the Northern Rivers – was diagnosed with chronic renal failure in 1994, she has spent 2496 days in hospital.

That's 12,480 hours restricted to a chair attached via a series of tubes to a machine that takes out a large volume of blood from her ageing body, cleans it, as a functioning kidney would, than returns it.

As any dialysis patient will testify, it is an unpleasant experience. Not that Mrs Johnston ever complains, said daughter Bronwyn Dwyer, who was on hand yesterday to mark her mother's landmark.

“Mum gets ready in the morning knowing that she has to come in. She knows it's for your own good,” Mrs Dwyer said.

To make matters worse for Mrs Johnston and her family, she has been also diagnosed with schizophrenia and stomach problems.

Yesterday she didn't feel like talking, but Mrs Dwyer wanted to publicly thank her mother's nurses and doctor for the care that she credits, along with her father Colin, for keeping Mrs Johnston alive.

“No matter what, dad has been there for her and has often put her own care above his,” Mrs Dywer said.

“I also want like to thank the nursing staff because if it wasn't for them she wouldn't have lasted this long.”

It's been a long road for Mrs Johnston. After she was first diagnosed, she was forced to spend three months in Newcastle receiving treatment at John Hunter Hospital, due to the lack of dialysis facilities on the Northern Rivers.

Luckily, those facilities are now available. Lismore Base now has 36 dialysis chairs, which cater for the unit's regular outpatients as well as supporting patients referred from the Ballina and Grafton hospitalrenal units.



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