Watching the box the other night I couldn’t help feel amazed at the news that Jonah Lomu is training with the Wellington NPC squad. He is certainly an exceptional bloke.
Doc Mayhew – the All Black’s official doctor (he probably has a much flasher title than that!) has given him the go-ahead to play, as have Lomu’s renal specialists in Auckland. All that remains is for Lomu to prove he is officially “back” by performing on the park.
Word on the street is that he could well get his first chance to do so against Taranaki in a pre-season game this weekend (9th August).
I happen to know (very well) someone who has experienced kidney failure and dialysis. So I posed a few questions to her on the subject. What she told me made all that Jonah has accomplished all the more amazing for me.
But first I should say that my friend’s renal failure happened 20 years ago. It is very likely that dialysis machines and the drugs available have all improved since then. The cause of her renal failure was also different to Jonah’s, which may have made her symptoms and fatigue worse than Jonah is experiencing.
My impression of renal failure was that someone would feel increasingly crappy as the hours went by following dialysis, but that immediately after it - having had your blood purged of a whole lot of nasty toxins - you’d feel like a million bucks!
Not so apparently. You certainly feel shitty before it. But straight after it you can often feel worse. Remember you have just had every drop of blood in your body piped through a really expensive filtering machine. I won’t even mention the needles. But you get the idea. 20 Years ago it all took three hours or more. The bigger you are, the longer it takes.
Doc Mayhew mentioned during an interview that most people have trouble holding down even a sedentary (sitting) job while on dialysis. I mentioned his point to my friend and she agreed. The closest thing to serious exertion she can remember managing was the odd short bike ride that invariably left her exhausted for hours.
I asked if the place where the needles are inserted was sore. She said it wasn’t really. I asked if it bumping the spot hurt. Yup. Definitely! I hear Jonah will be wearing a bandage over his arm to prevent that happening.
Now this part may well have changed since the 1980’s, so don’t take it as gospel. Back then if you were on dialysis your diet was severely limited. Very little salt was allowed. It was the same story for fluids. Nothing more than a cup a day was recommended. That is not a typo. One cup only… Other items on the “bad” list were things like bananas (high in potassium).
Can you imagine competing in a physically demanding sport with very little in the way of salt or fluids in your system? I can only assume dialysis machines have improved somewhat and that Jonah is allowed a more flexible diet. I’m still picking KFC is off the list though.
So when you next watch Jonah out there on the rugby field, have a think about what he is actually achieving. It is truly remarkable. He is playing a physically demanding sport at the top level with an illness that leaves others perpetually fatigued and struggling to hold down even a desk job.
Hats off to Jonah.