Wednesday 18 November will always be remembered as the day the world lost a giant!
Jonah Tali Lomu unexpectedly passed on at 11am on Wednesday after returning from a short holiday in Dubai the night before. He lived in Auckland with his wife Nadene and their two sons.
Lomu had been receiving dialysis treatments during his recent visit to Britain where he was involved in heavy promotional work during the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
As a former renal failure patient myself I always felt a connection between Jonah and myself whenever I saw or read about him and when my wife woke me up this morning to break the news to me, I was very saddened about what I heard.
My first thoughts went back to the 1995 Rugby World Cup when I saw this “freak” of the game for the first time when I was only 18 years old. At the time I had already spent two years of my life on dialysis and also had one failed kidney transplant the year before in 1994.
At the end of 1995 Lomu was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, a serious kidney disorder. His rugby career went on hold whilst the disorder was treated. In May 2003 Lomu had been put on dialysis three times a week due to the deterioration in his kidney function. Side effects of Lomu’s dialysis treatment led to severe nerve damage in his feet and legs; his doctors warned him that he faced life in a wheelchair if a kidney transplant was not performed soon. At the end of July 2004 Lomu had a kidney transplant that was donated by Wellington radio presenter and close friend Grant Kereama.
Sadly in early 2012 it was reported that that the kidney had failed and that Jonah was looking for another donor. He was however informed that his body was more likely to reject a second transplant than the first.
I was however more fortunate than the big man thanks to my mother, who had to lose a tremendous amount of weight before she could donate one of her kidneys to me. She did the unbelievable and lost 98kg and after doing all the tests to see if she would be a match, we got the go ahead and I had a successful transplant on 3 October 1998 in Johannesburg.
The most incredible part of the whole story was that the match was so good that I have been able to go off the anti-rejection medication and have been living a drug free life for more than 8 years already.
However, being a renal failure patient comes with many other side effects, complications and setbacks from the various treatments one gets through dialysis and medication.
Once again I consider myself very lucky as in December 2013 I had to have a very sudden double heart bypass while on our family Christmas holiday. This was caused due to post effects caused by the many years of treatment I had been on and was inevitable at some stage I found out later.
As a former renal failure patient for just over 5 years of my life between 1993 and 1998 I can only imagine how strenuous life must have been for Jonah, especially with all the added outside pressures he had to endure while being ill at the same time.
This alone is testament to what a giant he was both on and off the field, who never shied away from a challenge.
International analysis by opposition
Lomu scored tries against every major test playing nation in World Rugby except South Africa and Wales. In his career, Lomu scored eight tries against England—more than any other All Black. Lomu set a record of 15 tries in World Cup tournaments, which was equalled by South African Bryan Habana in 2015.
My final words will remain my tweet from this morning when I realised what had happened…
— TheYellowCap (@theyellowcap) November 18, 2015