Ayla in recovery
-How did you discover that you needed a kidney transplant?
My only symptom was high blood pressure. After a doctor’s visit, a blood revealed my kidneys weren’t functioning properly. I was sent to the emergency department and spent the next 6 days in hospital. The 3rd day there the Nephrologist (kidney specialist) sat with me and told me "Your kidneys are functioning at 6%. You're going to need to go on dialysis and eventually you'll need a kidney transplant."
I knew very little about transplants and had no clue of what dialysis was so I wasn't too concerned. "Just give me some sweet dialysis, pop a kidney in me, and I'll be on my way." I had no idea this was the beginning of a life long journey.
-What was that diagnosis like for you?
While in hospital I had a biopsy, where they took a piece of my kidney to determine if the damage could be reversed, I received the results a couple of weeks after my discharge. The Doctor was very casual about it,
"So... you know you have stage 5 chronic kidney disease?"
"...I do now?"
I felt insignificant and quickly learned I can't expect people to understand what I’m going through or expect much empathy. Chronic Illness is a very solitary world and you become a mere spectator of life.
-Tell us a bit about your journey with stage 5 chronic kidney disease?
My world was upside down, everything changed. Firstly, my diet, I was heavily restricted from most foods and was also restricted to 1500ml of fluid a day, I was also on a massive amount of medications which affected my memory.
Then there was dialysis. Every night I was connected to a machine for 8 hours while it cleaned my body of the toxins that built up during the day. Trying to sleep while tethered to a machine never becomes comfortable, it just becomes the norm.
Despite these restrictions, I managed to live a relatively normal life. I worked full time with the amazing dogstar team who have supported me every step of the way, I maintained a social life, even upheld my creative side by curating a zine series focusing on young adults with Chronic Illness.
I didn't let my diagnosis take over my life, it was just a part of it.
-The turnaround, how did it feel to get that phone call from the hospital?
Even though I waited 2 years and 4 months for that phone call, nothing could ever prepare me for it. It was 6.45am on a Tuesday morning. They said they had a really good kidney for me and told me to come to the hospital in the next hour. I tried to pack a bag but I couldn't gather my thoughts. My brain was buzzing, my heart was pounding, I have never felt that elated. It was the best moment of my life. Arriving at the hospital they knew exactly who I was. This was it, it was really happening.
-How has your recovery been so far?
My new kidney started cleaning my body up straight away. My kidney function has gone from 3% to 75% and is continuously increasing. The doctors have said that it couldn't be going better.
I have so much energy which is a little frustrating because I am still recovering. No dialysis for 22 days and I’ve been able to eat all the foods I couldn't before although I’m still on a lot of medication.
It is a very emotional time for me, I’ve been reflecting on the past few years, on dialysis, the life changing surgery, my donor, their family and the new life I have in front of me.
-What is involved day to day living with your donated kidney?
After the transplant, I was put on a number of anti-rejection drugs to keep my body from attacking my new organ. This continues for the duration of the life of my kidney. This means I need to be very careful day to day ensuring I avoid any chance of infection or illness. These drugs also increase my chance of getting skin cancer so it's important I’m mindful of sun exposure.
It’s important to really look after myself, be as healthily as possible. I like to treat my new kidney like a newborn baby, it's my job to protect it and ensure it has the longest possible life span.
-Why is registering as an Organ and Tissue donor so important.
Up to 10 people’s lives can be saved if you are an organ and tissue donor.
Sadly only 1-2% of people who die can actually donate their organs, it’s so important to have as many people registered as possible. In Australia, there are currently 1,300 people on the waitlist for an organ and these people are waiting up to 7 years.
Because of one incredible person who chose to register, myself and a number of other people have been given a second chance at life. I think of my donor every single day and the gift that I have received from them.
It takes 2 minutes to register online.
That's all it takes to save a life like mine.
-Ayla thanks so much for opening up to us, you’ve come so far in just a few short weeks and we can’t wait to see what your future holds.
For more information on organ donation, please visit
If you would like to donate you can visit the crowd funding page
Or purchase the Ayla top created by dogstar (a portion of profits will go to Ayla)
Ayla at the recent annual dogstar party
If you have visited our Melbourne boutique anytime in the past year, or been to our recent studio sale in Brisbane, chances are you have probably met Ayla. But what you probably didn't know is that Ayla is now the proud owner of a donated organ.
3 weeks on and she is doing incredibly well. Her friends and family and the dogstar pack have come together and raised several $1000s through crowd funding.
To continue to support Ayla in her recovery - dogstar has created the "Ayla' top. A portion of the profits from the sales of this garment will be donated to her.
We are expecting a speedy recovery because we want her back at work asap.
Available in 4 colours - soon in store and online.
If you would like to help, please visit https://www.youcaring.com/aylabrett-1085680
Ayla and Caroline choosing songs for the greatest karaoke performance of Caroline's life
She picked a Cher song
Back to work
I had such a wonderful time in Japan over the New Year period.
Today we made many 'goen' with 5 yen coins and decorative string.
5 yen coins
hand tie coins
I went to Monju mountain in my home town with my good friends and my children to celebrate the end of 2017. I did not know what to expect.
As soon as we stepped onto the mountain, the temperature dropped immediately. The snow was knee deep and we were surrounded by mountain forest. It took us to a completely different space and it was beautiful, but also mysterious.
Tengu golblin has been living in this mountain. He is a long nosed Goblin or bird like monster and has been living in this mountain as a protector for a 1000s of years. He is also considered to be a mountain god who can change his form.
When we are walking through the mountain, so many things went through my mind. Firstly, I wondered if Tengu was watching us, and then i thought about all the things I did this year and all the things I couldn’t do... about my family and friends, Australia and Japan.
It took almost 1.5 hours to reach the top, by the time we arrived my mind was completely calm. On the way down however, than calmness did not last long, whenever I trekked at the back of the line, it felt like we were being watched.
Perhaps Tengu was just making sure to grant us safe passage through his forest.
Communal Bamboo Walking sticks
Prayers offered to Tengu
Sream and Moss
Sacred Tree - believed to be 1000's of years old and protected by Mountain Gods
Stone Monument with Jodo-Shinshyu chant engraved
My Grandmother's hands
Today, my Grandma asked me to help her winding cotton thread. I used to help her winding cotton when I was a kid.
She can't see much anymore but is still winding thread now.
She is nearly 100 years old, so she can’t wind as well now as she used to and the thread can get tangled easily.
I remember my Grandma used to stitch and fix everything by hand when cloth had a hole or was damaged.
She never wasted damaged clothes.
I used to get embarrassed to wear the old fixed clothes that my grandma kept for a long time.
We rarely stitch by hand these days.
I came home in Japan recently and am now wondering if those old clothes are still here in my Grandma’s closet.
It felt like time slipped back to when I was a kid winding thread with my Grandma.
Ba Chan (Grandma)
Togo train tracks
For the past week my children have been experiencing Japanese school in Fukui.
The school that they go is a small school and is located in the country side in a little village called Togo.
All of the school children have been very welcoming to Naima and Taishi and they are exchanging different two cultures.
Togo still has many old elements remaining and somehow that makes me feel invigorated.
The little creek that curves through the main street in the village is home to many fat carp. The train only goes every 1-2 hours.
It is inconvenient for our busy life, but the time stops here in Togo.
I see many beautiful things this morning and feel like I receive lots of energy.
I like the slow life.
Empty Rice Fields
Train Station Garden
Togo Train Station
Togo School Children
I am about to go back to Japan next week to visit my family. In the past 5 or 6 years I have not been in Japan during Winter.
This year I am taking my children to my home town called Fukui, which is located just north of Kyoto. The children will see snow for their first time in their life and they are so excited to make a snow man! My grandmother turned 99 years old this year and we will have traditional New Year celebration together and it will be the first time with the four generations.
I have been away from Japan for more than twenty years now and it will be good for me to see my hometown with a different eye. I always thought Fukui was a boring town, but now when I return, I see things differently and take notice of the colours and changes in seasons.
I am sure this trip will influence my next collection.
Leaves and moss wall
View from my room
My Worn Pendragon shoes
I have been wearing Jackie and Adrian's Pendragon shoes since our winter photo shoot last year.
Near complete Natsu Slide