Whistleblower: VAFA Umpire Wayne Hinton’s Battle with Organ Failure

Posted on - Latest News, Featured, VAFA News, Umpires

By Nick Armistead

Organ failure is unbiased and holds no prejudice. Despite often lacking reason in its decision-making, it refuses to judge based on much more than luck, or lack-there-of.

VAFA umpire, Wayne Hinton, knows the repercussions of organ failure’s nonpartisan decisions far too well.

A victim of chronic kidney failure, Hinton has battled the debilitating illness with a combined fearlessness and enthusiasm encompassed by very few. His acceptance of the disease, and each subsequent health-related issue, has not been anything less than awe-inspiring.

Despite coming as an unwelcome surprise, 57-year-old Hinton says his 2013 diagnosis offered answers to a number of pressing questions.

“I was getting random headaches and at times I’d be bilious,” he says.

“Just like if I had been out on the grog all night, I’d wake up with a hangover and be sick at random times.

“I tried to self-diagnose in the early days. I thought I was allergic to some foods, but I was way off the mark.”

His kidney had slowed. It had pulled the brakes. It had decreased its output so significantly, it was four percent from inflicting memory loss upon Hinton’s mind.

“It was operating at 14 percent. You start to lose your memory at 10 percent so I was lucky I got it checked when I did,” he says.

He was lucky. After receiving initial blood tests, Hinton’s nurse refused to divulge her findings without first consulting with his doctor.

“So he took it (blood pressure) and it was sky high. It was the highest he’s ever written at 220 over 110,” he says.

“I came back the next day and took bloods and I had a very high cretina reading. If I were to leave it too much longer the doctor said some other organs would’ve malfunctioned and it would’ve been too late.

“Eventually, I would’ve died if I didn’t pick it up.”

What followed were 10 days of intensive testing and more than two years of peritoneal dialysis. With two types of dialysis available, peritoneal and haemodialysis, Hinton believes he was bestowed the less severe option.

“I had a catheter installed into my stomach and then set up something like an old video recorder machine,’ he says.

“You put a cassette into it and you get bags of fluid that sit on top of the machine so the fluid goes into your stomach preheated. I used to hook up, go to bed, go to sleep and wake up in the morning and be all done.”

It was a new way of life for Hinton; a different way of life. It was 28 months of knowing he could achieve more, but forcefully restricted via the noncompliance of one stubborn organ.

Despite his inability to achieve the heights brought upon by a near 40-year umpiring career with both the VAFA and VFL, Hinton refused to succumb to the sedentary lifestyle adopted by most undertaking dialysis.

“I was lucky because most patients who are on dialysis can’t work,” he says.

“They just sit around at home stuffed and bedridden and I was extremely lucky I could work and still umpire. I knew my limits. It was frustrating but I had to learn to accept it.”

His acceptance eventually arrived, but not before his defiance. He tried his utmost to defeat chronic kidney failure by doing as he had always done – outrunning it. Unfortunately, it was a short-lived dream. Due to how significantly the disease had affected his cardiorespiratory system, Hinton quickly realised it was unable to be defeated through sheer guts and determination.

“I could only do one lap of the football ground and then I would have to stop,” Hinton says.

“It was like I’d already done 20 kilometres. I tried to beat it but I just couldn’t.

“In the summer time I got into a fair bit of swimming because it’s less taxing on your body. I set myself a few goals so after a couple of months I thought I might try for one kilometre. I got there – just stuck at it.”

As the weeks morphed into months, and the months into years, the likelihood of a donor seemed less and less; until three months ago.

“I got called in on the first of May,” Hinton says.

“I was on the list waiting for a deceased donor and the average wait is between three and four years, but he (Hinton’s doctor) rang up and said it’s looking good. There was a donor coming in from interstate and from a slightly younger person.”

He says exactly one week prior he received the same call but the donor was found to be incompatible.

“Without them getting the donor in their hands, seeing and testing if it’s a pretty close match to my metabolism and DNA – you just don’t know,” he says.

“As the night goes on the longer the better. When it gets close to 9pm or 10pm you know it’s looking good.

“So I got into theatre on the first of May at midnight and they put me out of it. Next thing I know I was waking up and it was finished by six in the morning.”

Hinton spent the ensuing 10 days in hospital, recovering from his operation on a diet of steroids and anti-rejection medication. His general level of fitness in conjunction with his unwavering positive outlook placed Hinton in good stead throughout recovery.

“Because I’m so fit anyway it’s really helped me get through this situation and it’s really carried me,” he says.

“I quite enjoyed my stay in hospital. It was like a rest for me.”

13 weeks post-operation, Hinton understands the harsh realities of organ failure. He witnessed firsthand the devastation it can cause its victims and asks individuals to consider organ and tissue donation.

“What I saw in hospital were patients who were bedridden,” he says.

“They could hardly get out of their wheelchair and it was just so scary. It can affect all ages; young kids, teenagers. You feel sorry for the teenagers as it bogs them down a little bit – especially if they’re on dialysis – they can’t go out and just do the normal things.

“When I talk to people about it (DonateLife Week), the common comment is they were on it or they were thinking about it but they never really take that final step. Get involved.”

For those who wish to find out more regarding organ and tissue donation, visit DonateLife Week at http://www.donatelife.gov.au/