Some thoughts on kidney disease and organ donation . . .

There isn’t a cure for kidney disease.

Seven words.

When you have kidney disease, or if you are impacted because a family member does, those seven words never leave you.

There isn’t a cure. Kidney disease doesn’t go into remission. Once diagnosed, it is always with you.

When you first are diagnosed, you are told there isn’t a cure. That is made clear. Oh, is it made clear!

If you are fortunate enough to be able to have a transplant, you are told again in the preparatory stage, and during every stop along the way.

Dorothy-020119
Dorothy Drinnan, here in a still from an interview with CFJC-TV, had a kidney transplant more than five years ago.

The Kamloops Blazers held their second annual RE/MAX Presents: WHL Suits Up with Don Cherry to Promote Organ Donation game on Feb. 1.

It was a special event in this household.

Earlier in the day, Dylana Milobar of CFCJ-TV in Kamloops called because she wanted to interview my wife, Dorothy, who underwent a kidney transplant on Sept. 23, 2013. (If you’re interested, that interview is right here.)

That out of the way, Dorothy later took part in the ceremonial face-off prior to the Blazers’ 4-1 victory over the Prince George Cougars. She and others with ties to the Kamloops chapter of the Kidney Foundation of Canada and the Kamloops Kidney Support Group, of which she is a co-founder, worked an information table on the concourse.

All of this was aimed at raising awareness of organ donation.

In the days leading up to the game, I had two conversations with people that got me to thinking about some misconceptions about living with kidney disease, and living with someone who has kidney disease.

For one thing, kidney disease doesn’t play favourites; it isn’t an old person’s disease.

If you saw the ceremonial face-off at that Feb. 1 WHL game in Kamloops, you will have noticed Patrick Backmeyer and his daughter, Ferris, taking part. Ferris is two years of age and has kidney disease.

Also, if you receive a transplant, you don’t end up with two working kidneys. You will be given one to replace your kidneys, both of which will have failed.

Ideally, you will get a kidney from a living sibling, and it will happen before you have to go on dialysis. If that isn’t possible and you need dialysis, you may still get a kidney from a living donor through a paired exchange program — in brief, someone, perhaps a friend who is a match, gives up a kidney to a stranger but only if you receive one as part of the exchange.

That is the process through which Dorothy got her ‘new’ kidney.

After doing peritoneal dialysis for four years — she hooked up to a machine called a cycler for eight hours a night, every single night, at home — Dorothy received a kidney through the paired donor exchange program. Her best, best, best friend gave up one of her two healthy kidneys so that Dorothy could go on living.

By the way, that friend never experienced any ill effects, proving, once again, that you are able to go on living as before with one healthy kidney.

Had you seen Dorothy on the ice at the Sandman Centre on Feb. 1, you wouldn’t have realized that she has a serious health issue. That holds true for a lot of transplant recipients, whether they received a kidney, liver or heart. But these people are walking among us, in greater numbers than we realize.

Transplant recipients also have suppressed immune systems because they will take anti-rejection medications for the duration of their lives. This means being careful in some areas that didn’t use to get a second thought. In our case, when possible we avoid anti-vaxxers and people who don’t get flu shots, even if it means the end to a friendship or two. You come to realize that the risks just aren’t worth it.

You also learn the importance of cleanliness . . . I mean, really learn. You especially wash your hands more than you ever have.

Dorothy takes her medications twice a day, at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. She visits a lab and has blood drawn every four months, so all levels are monitored by the renal clinic staff and adjustments are made as necessary.

It used to be that she went for bloodwork far more frequently. But as time goes on and the new kidney keeps ticking along, those visits — and the ones to the renal clinic — became less frequent. But the monitoring always is there.


With the WHL regular season winding down, seven of the 17 Canadian teams have yet to hold their RE/MAX Presents: WHL Suits Up with Don Cherry to Promote Organ Donation games.

There are three scheduled for this weekend, with the Kootenay Ice wearing their special sweaters and socks tonight, the Victoria Royals on Saturday and the Calgary Hitmen on Sunday.

The Prince George Cougars are set up for March 8, with the Kelowna Rockets, Medicine Hat Tigers and Saskatoon Blades scheduled for March 9.

If you attend any of these games, please take a look at some of the information and look into being an organ donor. Even if you don’t register, do some research and see what all is involved.

Thank you.

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