For Whangārei mum Jessie Cherrington, the ability to do kidney dialysis from home gives her a better quality of life.

She is able to choose when she uses the machine and do it all from the comfort of her own home - but it also means her power bill goes up.

However, Cherrington has received help with that thanks to the Contact Energy Renal Endowment Fund, which helps patients on home dialysis in Northland.

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But that fund is running out, and Northland District Health Board (NDHB) is calling for new donations.

It started in 2009 with $28,000 grew to $38,000 and now there is only $1123 left.

"The fund has been helpful for our patients to maintain their independence and continue dialysis at home. It's a tough treatment, and there are many benefits to doing it at home," said NDHB renal social worker Anna Stewardson.

When Cherrington, now aged 24, was 13 she was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE).

Because it can affect the skin, joints, kidney, brain and other organs she was told there was a possibility she would end up on dialysis.

However, no one expected it would only be eight years until she would have to spend three days a week - from 6.30am until 12.30pm - in hospital on dialysis.

A year later she was spending even more time in hospital.

In 2018 Cherrington and her partner Dillon Gavin's daughter Rayven-Rayne was born 11 weeks early, weighing just two pounds (about 900 grams).


Cherrington was spreading herself between feeding Rayven and pumping milk in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and dialysing in the Renal Department, and Gavin had to quit a new job in Auckland because they wouldn't give him time off to support Cherrington.

"We spent three and a half weeks in Auckland Newborn Intensive Care Unit and then another eight weeks at Whangārei Hospital Special Care Baby Unit and fell pretty significantly behind on our bill payments," Gavin said.

But the couple made it through their ordeal and in September 2018 Cherrington began home dialysis.

It has made life much less complicated.

"Now I'll dialyse in the morning from 10am to 3 or 4pm if my mum or sister can come over and help with Rayven. Otherwise, I wait until Dillon comes home from work and do it in the afternoon," Cherrington said.

However, their power costs escalate to around $4 or $5 per day when Jessie is dialysing compared to $1 on the days she is not.


While they receive some Government funding which goes towards power, they also received $500 from the Renal Endowment Fund which helped even more.

Stewardson said that fund helped fill gaps for many families.

"People who undergo constant medical treatment have 'out of pocket' expenses that are not always covered by Government subsidies, so this fund helps to fill these gaps."

Grants from the fund have now totalled about $26,767 and have been allocated for purposes ranging from buying a generator to prevent loss of dialysis during power cuts, to recliner chairs used during dialysis and contributions to power bills.

With the fund now "rapidly diminishing", the DHB and Northland Community Foundation are looking for organisations or individuals who would like to contribute so it can continue to support the renal patient community in Northland.

• If you would like to make a donation or receive more information please contact Greta at the Northland Community Foundation on 021 558 224 or email


There are three dialysis centres in Northland, at Whangārei, Kawakawa and Kaitaia.