Gymnast represents NZ while battling disease

For some young girls, finding out you have kidney disease at age 14 would be the end of the world. But for 23-year old Katherine, the life-changing diagnosis hasn’t stopped her from living her life and achieving her dreams.

A rhythmic gymnast since she was 12, Katherine will compete at the Australian Gymnastics Championships in Sydney at the end of May despite receiving daily kidney dialysis treatment.

Katherine competing

Katherine’s disease is caused by a genetic mutation that developed over time, not affecting her until her early teens. Following her diagnosis, Katherine spent six weeks in Starship Children’s Hospital and underwent countless tests, appointments and treatments.

While Katherine was lucky enough to receive a kidney transplant from her mum just months after her diagnosis, it was only a short reprieve from her illness. After seven years living with her mum’s kidney, Katherine’s body rejected the organ, meaning it had to be removed to prevent it causing more problems.

One of the side effects of her illness is anaemia, which means Katherine has a low iron in her blood. Anaemia has a range of side-effects including fatigue, but can be treated with regular blood transfusions which Katherine says are a life-saver.

“Receiving a blood transfusion not only helps me medically, it makes me feel so much better which is good for my mind too,” she says. “When I feel better, I am much more positive and able to live life to the fullest.”

Katherine competesKatherine says that gymnastics helps keep her mind off the ups and downs of her illness, while she waits for doctors to find her a new kidney.

“When I am training, my mind is distracted from being sick and I can focus on the warm ups, the stretching and the routines. I can’t do as much as everyone else because I get tired easily, but that doesn’t stop me giving it my best shot.”

Despite her ongoing battle for her health, Katherine never gave up her dream to represent New Zealand internationally. She has competed in France and USA, and hopes to bring home another medal to add to her collection when she competes in Sydney.

Katherine’s sister and her mum are regular whole blood and plasma donors, and Katherine encourages everyone to sign up as a donor with New Zealand Blood Service.

“It really does help save my life,” she says.

To book an appointment to become a blood donor to help save the lives of people like Katherine click here or call 0800 GIVE BLOOD.

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