Nikki Reynolds-Wilson and Kristie Purton are sisters from Tauranga who both have pancreatic-insufficiency cystic fibrosis (CF) with CF-related diabetes.
CF is an inherited disorder when both parents of the CF sufferer carry the abnormal gene for the disease. CF affects the lungs and pancreas, clogging them with mucus, which causes shortness of breath, chronic cough and repeated chest infections.
In 2016, Nikki and Kristie, who are known as the ‘cystic sisters’, created a CF funding and awareness campaign. Their ‘We are two sisters doing 65 days of good deeds for cystic fibrosis’ started as a Facebook page, but became much more.
The sisters went around the Tauranga community doing good deeds, such as paying for people’s parking and toll gate fees, and leaving vouchers on cars outside the supermarket. They also spread their goodwill by baking for people, and collected and delivered fruit to organisations like the homeless shelter.
At the time of the campaign, Nikki was waiting for a new lung transplant: her lung function was below 30 per cent of full capacity. She had limited mobility because of her need for oxygen, but made the most of the time she could spend away from being hooked up to respiratory equipment.
The campaign included staging a bubble day at the park where they made bucket-loads of bubble mixture and handed wands and cake pops to children at the event.
At the end of the bubble day, Nikki nearly ran out of energy as she’d had more than enough time away from her oxygen. But it was worth it, she says, to build awareness for CF and raise funds to research for better treatments and ultimately, a cure.
The pair raised more than $1000 for Cystic Fibrosis Tauranga. “65 days of making lots of people smile was an amazing feeling,” Kristie says.
Nikki had been on a waiting list for a lung transplant for a year-and-a-half when she got the call she’d been waiting for. “When we got the call we freaked out! We were shaky and panicked, but within 20 minutes we were on the road,” says Kristie, who is also waiting for a lung transplant.
Nikki was in high spirits waiting before the operation, which took 10 hours to complete. Fortunately, the procedure was successful with no complications.
After recovering from the transplant, she was allowed to return home. At first, her parents found it strange because she wasn’t coughing as she had previously done all of her life.
A few months after the transplant, Nikki is now loving her new dramatically improved quality of life. She is now able to walk and jog, and has even been kayaking. She’s also planning a holiday.