- Fiji News
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By KERRY GALLAGHER
Their stories could not be more different – except for an illness that brings them together.
Former star rugby wing, Joeli Vidiri, and eight-year-old Tristin Mackay are the faces of Kidney Kids.
The former star had a stellar career for the Auckland Blues and played for the All Blacks before being cut down by illness. The latter met his challenges much earlier in life.
Tristin was born with Prune Belly Syndrome, a one in 80,000 condition and was only given 10 days to live.
But nearly nine years later, he has overcome the odds and his mother Helon calls him “a miracle”.
He only has a third of one kidney functioning though and will need a transplant. Helon will be the donor.
Needing a kidney transplant is a bond Tristin shares with Mr Vidiri, who he met last year.
Both are teaming up to raise awareness of kidney illnesses.
Mr Vidiri, 38, suffers from nephritis, a disease that affects the kidneys’ blood filter. He has been waiting for a kidney transplant since 2001.
The former All Black, Fijian national and Blues wing was on top of his game in the late 1990s. The then-powerful Blues had a strike force the envy of any team in the world with Jonah Lomu on the other wing.
But superstardom did not save Mr Vidiri or Mr Lomu from succumbing to kidney disease.
Both had their careers cut short and each underwent dialysis treatment.
Mr Vidiri realised his life expectancy would reduce drastically if he didn’t receive a transplant. But to date, unlike his friend Mr Lomu, no donor has been found.
Meanwhile, he has been raising awareness about kidney disease with the Auckland Kidney Society and Kidney Kids – a parent-driven organisation set up to meet the needs of children, and the families of children, who have kidney disorders.
Mr Vidiri is co-patron and Mr Lomu is patron.
Mr Vidiri played two tests for the All Blacks and 11 times for Fiji, his country of birth. He also played sevens for both, and won a gold medal for New Zealand at the 1998 Commonwealth Games. He played 61 times for the Blues in Super rugby and 71 times for Counties Manukau in the National Provincial Championship – now the ITM Cup.