Hope For Vidiri

Joeli Vidiri is excited about his second chance at life now that his 14-year wait for a kidney donor has come to an end. The former All Black and Counties
15 Jun 2015 09:55
Hope For Vidiri

Joeli Vidiri is excited about his second chance at life now that his 14-year wait for a kidney donor has come to an end.

The former All Black and Counties Manukau legend is recovering in Auckland City Hospital after a kidney transplant on May 29.

The 41-year-old has been on regular dialysis treatment since he was first diagnosed with glomerular nephritis, which left him with just 1 per cent of kidney operation, in 2001.

At just 27 years old, the rugby career of one of the most exciting players to play the game came to a screeching halt.

The diagnosis was a shock to Vidiri who said his problems only started occurring when he broke his arm in two games into the 2001 NPC season.

“I started coughing up blood, so I decided to go and see a doctor and he told me I had kidney problems. My kidneys weren’t working,” he said.

Fifteen years on, Vidiri said he was determined to make the most of his donated kidney, which came through the donor waiting list.

“I have to look after myself with the way I eat and drink. I have a second chance at life so I have to make sure that I make use of it.”

Still lying in his hospital bed, he said he came through the operation well.

“I am feeling good and have a lot of energy,” he said.

It was a special feeling for Vidiri when he got the unexpected call from his doctor that a kidney was available two weeks ago.

“I was in the sitting room with Mum. I was asleep and Mum heard the phone. It was about 3am [on May 29] and she woke me up and I looked at the phone and it was my doctor. I text him ‘Doctor you have to call me, what is going on?’ and he said ‘Can you be here at 5am?’ And I said ‘OK’.”

After a prayer session, they made their way to the hospital.

“We arrived at Auckland Hospital and the doctors did my blood tests and I was ready for the doctors to confirm that the kidney was right. It all happened very quickly.”

It was not the first time he was offered a kidney. In 2010 he turned one down after his mother and family members raised concerns about the operation.

“I think that the timing was right now. I think the people were more educated from last time and now they were ready for it, even Mum.”

Vidiri rose to fame playing opposite Jonah Lomu, who had similar kidney problems, on the wing in a lethal Counties Manukau backline in the mid-to-late 1990s.

Between 1994 and 2000, Vidiri scored 56 tries in 71 appearances for the province.

Vidiri, like Lomu, played for the Blues during their glory years in the late 1990s including claiming Super Rugby titles in 1996 and 1997.

He debuted for the All Blacks in 1998 and collected a Commonwealth Games gold medal with the New Zealand Sevens in Kuala Lumpur later that year.

He played nine test matches – seven for Fiji and two for New Zealand – scoring six tries. Despite being in the considerably large shadow of Lomu, Vidiri became a cult-icon in rugby circles.

His popularity inspired fans to chant the song Give me hope Joeli at Blues games.

He has not played rugby since his diagnosis 14 years ago. He has held some coaching roles at the Pukekohe Rugby Club.

The co-patron of Kidney Kids, is the cousin of fellow former All Black Joe Rokocoko.

“I have to get my health right first,” he said. After 14 years of battling kidney problems, he will take his time to recover.

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