The ties that bind: Nathan Sinclair’s new lease on life, thanks to dad Peter

Words, images Copyright Bill Poulos 2013

RACEHORSE trainer Peter Sinclair has given his son Nathan the greatest Christmas gift a father could possibly give – the gift of life.

Nathan, who trains alongside his father at Moree racecourse, has suffered spina bifida since birth, and in the last 25 years he has beaten every obstacle the debilitating congenital disorder has hurled at him.

It’s been an incredible, at times painful journey – and one made even more incredible given the fact that parents Peter and Jenny were told back in 1988 that their new-born son wouldn’t survive his first night at Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital.

But, in racing parlance, Nathan has beaten the odds in a world where his “sticks” are his constant companions.


Peter Sinclair congratulates Nathan after being relegated to second by his son at Moree races in 2010.

As a teenager he competed successfully at pony camps across the north and north-west and won champion rider for the disabled at the 2004 Narrabri Show.

Since following family tradition and joining the training ranks, Nathan has in a short time collected feature races with gallopers Count Auray, Innocent Billy, Trust Me Honey and in recent months Toriuss, a winner of three from three during its first preparation.

More than 12 months ago spina bifida began destroying Nathan’s kidneys to such an extent that he was forced to begin five-hour dialysis sessions, three days a week.

Nathan also began tests for a kidney transplant if a suitable donor could be found – and he didn’t need to look too far for the right donor to come along.

After undergoing numerous blood tests and compatibility assessments, dad Peter was found to be a near-perfect match – and both are this week back where it all began at John Hunter Hospital, recuperating from life-changing surgery.


Nathan Sinclair has a new lease on life after undergoing a successful kidney transplant on Monday. His father Peter was the donor.

“I’ve got through everything that’s been put in front of me and this kidney problem was something that was always going to happen, it was just a matter of when,” Nathan said.

“The operation is just something I’ve had to do, and it really means a lot to me that dad has given me his kidney – it’s the best Christmas present I’ll ever have.

“I started dialysis about 12 months ago and at the time I also started all the tests for a kidney transplant. This operation has been 12 months coming, and I’m really happy that dad could do it,” he said.

Nathan is not out of the woods yet, however. Minor complications arose after Monday’s six-hour surgery and it will be two or three months before his life is back on an even keel.

“After the operation my hands were all swollen up – they’re still a little bit puffy – and I had tingling in my fingertips, but that’s starting to go away now,” he said.

“Doctors have told me that I will feel a lot better than I have for a long time and that there will be no more trips to dialysis. That’s all finished – and hopefully for a long time,” he said.

Peter Sinclair says the road ahead will be potholed – but it’s a road well-travelled by his son.

“Nathan has to have a lot of ongoing treatment,” he said.

“He’ll have to have anti-rejection drugs for a long time, which unfortunately will force his immune system to be really low.

“When he gets back to Moree he’ll be locked up at home for about three months and won’t be able to go near the horses because of bugs and germs.

“I’ll be OK. There are a lot of people out there with only one kidney, so it doesn’t really make a lot of difference – I’ll just have to keep an eye on the one I’ve got,” he chuckled.


Nathan Sinclair with parents Peter and Jenny just days before undergoing life-changing surgery at Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital.

Peter said that from the outset, the closer the match the easier it was going to be for Nathan – and the match could not have been much closer when test results came back.

“We actually ended up with a ‘6’ blood-testing match, and apparently the only people that would be better than that would be twins,” he said.

Peter says the past 12 months has been a journey that has opened his eyes. It’s been a wake-up call of sorts that has heightened awareness of a problem that is widespread yet at times seldom discussed.

Presently, there are about 1300 people in NSW on the donor list waiting for a kidney.

“I’m amazed by it all,” Peter said.

“I didn’t realise the amount of kidney failure that’s out there. We’ve been to Tamworth for dialysis as well as Brisbane and Newcastle and we thought Tamworth was huge when we went there.

“But it’s almost nothing when compared to Brisbane and Newcastle – there are 40 to 50 people lined up in beds undergoing dialysis, and that’s twice a day.

“It’s amazing. You can be ignorant to a lot of things in life, until something happens and you become a part of it,” he said.