Conal’s Story: From hospital bed, to the World Transplant Games
Laying in a hospital bed, awaiting lifesaving surgery is where Nelson local Conal Beban, 42, decided he would compete in this year’s World Transplant Games.
In 2017 Conal was having trouble sleeping. He could not fall asleep unless he was sitting upright due to difficulties breathing. Conal booked a GP appointment, thinking he was simply suffering from asthma symptoms.
At his appointment his doctor noted he had an extremely high blood pressure. After sitting through an electrocardiogram test (ECG, a test that records the electrical activity of the heart), Conal was told to get in his car and drive straight to Nelson Hospital.
“I didn’t leave for another 10 days,” says Conal.
He was diagnosed with late stage four kidney failure. By the time of his kidney transplant surgery in January 2022, his kidneys were functioning at just six per cent.
Following his surgery, Conal spent eight days in hospital but just two days after being sent home he began suffering from chest pains. He returned to the hospital where they discovered a blood clot in his lung which meant another four nights in hospital and self-injecting blood thinners for the next few months.
Conal credits his Trauma and Income Protection Cover through Partner’s Life with allowing him to focus on recovery as opposed to worrying about his finances.
“I was very lucky. Partner’s Life looked after me incredibly well,” he says.
Conal’s kidney donor was one of his best mates and “legend” Andy Bryant, who he met in his university days in Dunedin.
“I never asked him to be my donor. He knew I had problems with my kidneys and just called me up and offered,” says Conal.
He says Andy’s gift of a kidney not only saved his life but changed his outlook.
“It’s a reset, another chance.”
Following his surgery, Conal would struggle to walk to the letterbox. Now Conal exercises six times a week, quite the jump from no exercise, prior to his diagnosis.
Fast forward to April this year, Conal and Andy flew to Perth to compete in the World Transplant Games, just 15 months following the kidney transplant surgery.
Conal ran the 5km, 1500m and 800m races. Andy competed in the special donor events, even receiving a gold medal in donor pétanque and a bronze in the 5km donor run.
Conal says before his surgery, the most running he had done was his school’s cross country.
It turned out his former insurance broker Vern Mardon would become his running coach and helped get him up and running.
Now Conal and Andy have their sights set on the 2025 World Transplant Games in Dresden.
“Somebody has given a part of them, and I really don’t want to waste it. The only way I can repay Andy is by looking after it the best I can,” says Conal.