In May 2017, Matt Toole completed the 10km event at the Air New Zealand Hawke’s Bay International Marathon with a kidney operating at just 10%. Fast forward 11 months and Toole is back, this time with a transplanted kidney to help him on his way to what he hopes is a better finish line experience for his mum Pat.
28-year-old Toole was quite the inspiration in 2017 as he took on the event just six weeks prior to having transplant surgery. That 10% function in his kidney meant he was a little ‘worse for wear’ when he crossed the line. Not surprising then that his first thoughts are for his mum Pat, who will once again be there to support him on the day.
“The main thing for me this time round is my mum and leaving her with a slightly better memory of this event! She was at the finish line last year and I must admit, it was probably a tough watch. I remember being absolutely drained and white as a ghost as I crossed the line, so I think it will be good for her to see the recovery is going really well, and I’ll be coming over the line in a healthier state.
“Mum has already told me she is going to be up there at the finish again this year, saying it is important for her to see me finish this year. After putting her through a tough time last year it is important for her to see those changes and how much better it is going to be to see me come across the line, hopefully with a lot less of a struggle!
“But I am doing it for myself as well. I like to mix up my training and there is always room for improvement. This time with a proper kidney I’ll be looking forward to giving it a good crack. My girlfriend (Victoria London) is going to come up and run with me, so it will be great to have some company on the course!”
Just days after that incredible effort in 2017, Toole got the call from his surgeon to advise that his surgery was confirmed for July. While last year he walked, jogged and willed himself over the line as he maintained his fitness ahead of the transplant, 2018 will be a celebration of the surgery and a commitment to his ongoing rehabilitation.
“I got the call around May 17, they said they had scheduled the kidney transplant operation in early July, suddenly there I was only six weeks out from surgery.
“It has been a slow recovery since and I’m getting back on my feet, but it is a slow process. But it’s the same as before, I am trying to keep a sense of normality, getting back to work, keeping training, living life as best as I can with the added bonus of feeling a lot better.”
As is often the case with transplants of this nature, the donor was found close to home.
“My donor was my brother-in-law Ian. Everything went really well, I am so grateful to Ian (Goodacre) for his role in all of this, thanks to him I can get back on with my life.”
His road to recovery has been a tough one though, with small milestones celebrated along the way.
“Initially I couldn’t do a lot, they push you out of bed after two days, I remember it was really painful. Just going 100 metres down the hallway was a win one day and a week later I was up to 500 metres and then six weeks after surgery I went for my first jog.
“You keep building, do a lot of stretching and slowly but surely it comes back. You keep pushing and you can do more. Now I’ve start biking and swimming, now I’ve got a lot more mobility.”
Not only does Matt enjoy great family support, but he has an understanding employer, something critical for anyone going through such a life changing procedure.
“My employer ANZ was pretty good, they let me do my own thing and come back as I needed, I started part time and have been slowly building back up. That support and taking the pressure off has allowed me to build up my strength and focus on working and dealing with the vocational side of life. And once you are outside of transplant recovery, this is almost like a full-time job in itself. They have been fantastic in that regard.”
Sitting at the top of the list of those to thank however, certainly alongside family, is the incredible team at Wellington Hospital who have given Matt such wonderful care the entire way, pre and post-surgery.
“I couldn’t do it without the really good team in Wellington, in particular the renal team at Wellington Hospital. I told them I wanted to do this event and take part in the Transplant Games next year. they have they encouraged me to get back on my feet and do everything that I wanted to do. I couldn’t ask for a better team looking after me. I wouldn’t be doing the stuff I’m doing at the moment without the work they have done and support they have given.”
Matt will be on the start line at the Air New Zealand Hawke’s Bay International Marathon on May 12, taking part alongside thousands of others across the event’s four race options, from the Kids Run, Cigna 10km, New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty Half Marathon and the full Air New Zealand Marathon.