A word with… Brad Rossiter
Brad is one of our individual members and an outstanding patient advocate and health consumer representative who is happy to tell his story, as well as listen to others to help tell theirs.
At the age of five, Brad was diagnosed with on-set Type 1 Diabetes. He managed – played sports, moved to Batemans Bay, became a butcher, married, and had a child. But in 1996, his health took a turn for the worse. Kidney disease and eye troubles started catching up with him.
Brad – can you summarise your health journey for us and tell us how your health is now?
After living well with Diabetes in my younger years, in early 2000, I was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure and was rushed to Canberra Hospital for emergency Dialysis. My eyesight had also failed to the point of being legally blind. My eyesight is still failing and I have been totally blind in my left eye for some years and have very little sight remaining in my right eye.
Type 1 Diabetes was savage on me, I was on regular Dialysis from 2000 and my left leg was amputated below the knee in 2002.
In 2007, I had just finished Dialysis at our local Dialysis Unit, the unit manager approached me and said: “Hey Brad, guess what?” I replied: “I give up” and he said: “Have you got your bag ready because there are a kidney and pancreas heading to Westmead Hospital and both are for you.” I was in theatre for about 10 hours!
The ravages of Type 1 had one more blow to dish out to me. In 2008, my right leg was amputated below the knee.
But since 2007, I feel fit, healthy and strong again and I’m loving life more than ever!
I enjoy being recognised by my peers as a strong health advocate. When I’m at home on the South Coast, I am engaging with the community. But I also like being part of round table discussions with federal, state and local governments. I’m also a floorboard cracking dancer and a chandelier shattering singer (laughs).
What were the hardest parts of your journey?
Between 2000 and 2007, life was not how I anticipated it would be. And it certainly wasn’t what I envisaged for my family – my wonderful wife Lorae and my son Trent and my brothers and parents – to also be a part of.
Watching my family watch me was the hardest part.
Dialysis is not a cure for renal failure, Dialysis is a treatment, some people survive on Dialysis for many years. Some people are fortunate to receive a kidney transplant. Some people choose not to have Dialysis…
But what always stood out for me was how lucky I am to have had the love of, and support from, Lorae, Trent, mum, dad, my brothers and family. A shout out also to all my friends and mates for keeping in regular contact – I really appreciate it!
To my double transplant donor and their family – thank you from the bottom of my heart.
What would you like people to know about your journey in particular?
I want people to remember that the glass is always half full.
I have received the greatest of gifts from someone whom I don’t know and have never met – a double organ donation!
My life has been saved and changed in so many ways from being gifted a kidney and pancreas.
Someone made a decision to register as an Australian organ donor – their choice, their end of life wish. At such an emotional point in life, the family knew to confirm the choice that had already been made by their loved one. I am, and will forever be, in awe of these people.
Their decision has given me this opportunity: a second chance to be with my family as we grow.
Register on the Australian Organ Donor Register. Then tell your family that this is your decision and if they are ever asked to confirm what you have chosen: agree!
Why did you decide to help others and get involved with changing the system? Could you tell us a bit about your local activity with the Eurobodalla Renal Support Group and advocating for organ donations?
Firstly, I am not trying to ‘change the system’. I listen to consumers and I’ll provide feedback to make the health system we have the best it can be for everyone.
I established the Eurobodalla Renal Support Group & Organ Donor Awareness in August 2007. When I first commenced Dialysis, there was no renal unit in our local area with the closest at Canberra Hospital.
That’s a two-hour drive both ways. In the Eurobodalla Shire there was no local support group. Through lobbying at state and federal level, the Eurobodalla Shire received a five-chair Dialysis unit at Moruya Hospital. Recent extensions at the hospital have included a new renal unit with 12 Dialysis chairs.
Since 2007, we have also hosted a weekly awareness and education day at The Bridge Plaza Batemans Bay, known as ‘Find Out Friday’. I talk on local radio programs, am interviewed by our local print media and active on social media. I happily present as a guest speaker. I’m listening to what people have to say about many health issues and provide responses and support from my own experiences or facts from Kidney Health Australia or Donate Life.
Over the past 10 plus years, my wife Lorae and I have hosted over 600 community awareness and education events – talking with, and listening to, community members regarding their health and accessibility journey living in a regional part of NSW.
And what is your involvement as a health consumer representative with the NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI)?
I am a consumer representative with ACI and the Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC). My role is to provide feedback from experiences, and to take information to consumers for their feedback.
I am also a consumer representative for the ACI Rural Health Network Executive. The purpose of this committee is to have a regional and rural voice at the table. I’m bringing feedback on issues from regional and rural consumers.
Living in rural NSW – what would you like to see for NSW’s rural health consumers to happen?
Transport, Transport, Transport!
Finally, what three main pieces of advice would you give someone who is in the midst of going through similar health circumstances you had to go through?
- Ask questions of GP’s, specialists, nurses, allied health workers. Ask questions, be in control of your pathway!
- Remember, there is always someone out there worse off than you.
- Be respectful and kind to each other.
Brad is involved with the following: Eurobodalla NSW Health Service community representative committee- chair, Eurobodalla Health Service Quality & Risk management committee member, Eurobodalla Shire Council Disability Inclusion Advisory Committee Member, Eurobodalla Shire Batemans Bay Orient & North Street’s Upgrading Committee, Eurobodalla Shire Pathways Strategy Committee Member, Eurobodalla Shire Batemans Bay MacKay Park Precinct Development Committee Member, Kidney Health Australia Consumer council member, Donate Life National- community partner – charter signatory & key stakeholder , The Organ and Tissue Authority (OTA) Community Engagement Group, Donate Life ACT awareness & steering committee member, Canberra Hospital Renal Advisory Meeting Member (RAM’s), Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI) Committee Member, Vision Australia member & advocate, Physical Disability Council NSW Member, Diabetes NSW/ACT Member & Advocate, My Health Records Presenter & community champion, NSW Health Consumer Council Member, Cancer Council Daffodil Day Team Leader, National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Participant – Self Managed, Eurobodalla Health Service Clinical Services Plan (CSP) Committee member, Batemans Bay Bridge Project Foreshore Advisory Committee, Kidney Health Australia- Operation Angel Award, Eurobodalla Shire Citizen of the Year 2012, Batemans Bay Hospital auxiliary Patron, Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow, Movember Mo Grower -Men’s Health Advocate, 2018 Commonwealth Games Queens Baton Bearer (2018QBR), 2018 Eurobodalla “Local Hero” Award, 2019 Australian of the Year Nominee.
For more information on how to become a health consumer representative click here.