Ross Killoh can normally be found dressed in his red polo shirt with a big smile on his face.

He'd be standing in his Mr Whippy truck, ready to serve lines of happy customers.

But in a matter of months, Ross has gone from making soft serve icecreams to receiving dialysis three times a week.

Tauranga's Mr Whippy is fit, does not smoke and has recently given up drinking.

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So when Ross was told he has a rare autoimmune disease, he and his family's lives were flipped upside down.

In February this year, he noticed blood in his urine so he went to Tauranga Hospital.

"I thought I might get some tablets for whatever was wrong and I'd be on my way. I didn't really think anything of it," he said.

After blood tests and a follow-up biopsy, Ross said his diagnosis was "written all over the doctor's face".

He was told he has anti-GBM nephritis which means his antibodies are destroying his kidneys, Ross said.

According to a Waikato District Health Board spokesperson only one or two new cases were diagnosed each year.

The 58-year-old was transferred to Waikato Hospital the next day and did not go home until three weeks later.

He received aggressive treatments including chemotherapy and 10 plasma transfusions and now travels to Waikato Hospital three days a week to receive dialysis.

Over the next two months, Ross's kidneys suffered "catastrophic" damage.

He now needs a new kidney.

"This has blown me out of the water," he says sitting on the couch of his Bellevue home.

His wife Ann is perched on a computer chair next to him.

The couple has owned their Mr Whippy franchise for more than six years, a business Ross said he "really loves".

Ann is a full-time homoeopathy student and now does all of her coursework online in the evenings. She has had to take over Mr Whippy duties since her husband has been unwell.

She wants to donate one of her kidneys, however, because the couple are self-employed she will not be able to take time off from the business to recover.

"It didn't really occur to me not to offer my kidney," she said.

"But we just couldn't afford it."

Which was why the couple has been trying to win a nationwide competition with The Hits radio station, where people around the country had a chance to live rent-free for a year.

Dr Matt Valentine, Bay of Plenty District Health Board acting medical director, said the renal unit at Tauranga Hospital had the capacity to dialyse 28 patients.

"At the moment there are no spaces available meaning that unfortunately, Ross is having to commute to Hamilton for haemodialysis," he said.

Valentine said the Midland Regional Renal Service was based at Waikato District Health Board and Tauranga was a satellite unit of this service.

"So all patients commence treatment at Waikato and transfer to Tauranga when they are stable and when there is a space available. As soon as spaces become available, the Waikato team transfers a patient."

A Givealittle page had been set up to raise funds so that Ann can give her husband a kidney as the couple will be without an income for up to six months.

To donate visit: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/mr-whippy-tauranga-needs-a-kidney#
Anti-GMB disease

Anti-GBM disease is the result of injury to small blood vessels (capillaries) in the kidney or lung. This can be caused by autoantibodies that attack the walls of these blood vessels.

In the kidneys, the capillaries that are attacked are in the glomeruli, which filter blood and make urine. These glomerular capillaries have thin membranes in their walls that are the targets of the autoantibodies.

Treatment of anti-GBM disease is focused on removing the anti-GBM antibody from the blood.

Source: unckidneycenter.org


Organ donation in New Zealand

According to Organ Donation New Zealand, there were 187 kidney transplants performed in New Zealand in 2017.
-118 were from deceased donors
-69 were from living donors