Kidney Walk: Of grandparents, grandchildren, good friends and transplants

A couple of former sports writers were walking on Rivers Trail, taking part in Kamloops’ 10th annual Kidney Walk on Sunday, when they were joined by Hugh McLennan.

Just minutes earlier, McLennan had been saluted by organizers, participants and volunteers as one of two honourees for this edition of the Kidney Walk. He had undergone a kidney transplant on Nov. 22, 2019, at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. His long-time friend, Louis (Big Rig) McIvor, the other honouree on Sunday, had given McLennan one of his kidneys.

McLennan, the host of the Spirit of the West radio show, is well-known in the ranching community in B.C. — he and wife Billie run cattle near Pinantan Lake, northeast of Kamloops. He also is easily recognizable, what with the 10-gallon hat, walrus moustache and cowboy boots.

By now, though, the cowboy boots were gone, replaced by a pair of sneakers.

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Tammy Mathieu and Louis (Big Rig) McIvor give grandchildren a ride alongside Hugh McLennan on Sunday during the Kidney Walk along Rivers Trail near McDonald Park. (Photo: Murray Mitchell/Murray Mitchell Photography)

It had been apparent early on that McLennan was thrilled to have been selected as an honouree. While doing hemo-dialysis, he had always been more than willing to help out by taking a turn at the microphone and also supplying musical entertainment at past Kidney Walks. He and McIvor also have been quick to promote organ donation and transplantation when given the opportunity.

As thrilled as McLennan was with that honour, though, he wore an even bigger smile as he told the story of a phone call he and Billie had received the previous day.

Their grandson, Reed, who will turn 16 on Nov. 20, is playing midget hockey in Winfield, B.C., which is located between Vernon and Kelowna on Highway 97.

Hugh’s voice was bursting with pride as he talked about the phone call.

A goaltender, Reed’s junior B rights belong to the Sicamous Eagles of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. It seems that the Eagles were scheduled to play the host Spokane Braves on Friday and found themselves short a goaltender, thanks to an issue involving a passport.

So . . . a call went out to Reed, who joined the Eagles in time to ride the bus to Spokane. He was looking forward to what he was looking at as a learning experience and expecting to take in the game from the cozy confines of the bench.

Except that the Eagles found themselves trailing, 3-0, just 3:49 into the game. Shortly after, the call came from head coach Ty Gunn: “McLennan . . . let’s go!”

With Reed in goal, the Braves added two more goals and took a 5-0 lead into the third period. It was 6-1 just 1:02 into the final period.

In the end, I’m sure the Eagles will tell you that they simply ran out of time. They lost the game, 6-5, scoring their fifth goal late in the third period.

Reed more than did his job, though, turning aside 39 of 41 shots in 54 minutes 20 seconds, in his junior B debut.

While Hugh was relating the story of a grandfather and his grandson, McIvor and fiancée Tammy Mathieu also were on Rivers Trail. They weren’t alone as they had two grandchildren in tow — or was it the other way around?

Regardless, with grandchildren in the conversation and on Rivers Trail, I couldn’t help but think about what it must mean to Hugh to be able to be part of his grandson’s life. After all, had Louis not given Hugh a kidney almost two years ago, well, who knows?

My wife, Dorothy, received a kidney six years ago Monday — Sept. 23, 2013. Our only grandchild, Kara, turned three in July. Dorothy had done peritoneal dialysis for almost four years before having her transplant. Again, without that kidney, who knows?

When we got home after Sunday’s Kidney Walk, we spent some time on a video chat with Kara.

Grateful doesn’t begin to explain what that kidney means to our family. You can bet it’s the same with the McLennans and anyone else who has needed a kidney and been fortunate enough to get one.

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If you are thinking about being a donor, feel free to call the donor nurse co-ordinator at St. Paul’s Hospital (604-806-9027 or 1-877-922-9822), or email donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca.



Five organs donated after death of SeaWolves’ catcher. . . . Numata saluted with honour walk as family says goodbye

Chace Numata, a 27-year-old catcher with the Double-A Erie SeaWolves, was said by teammates to be the club’s “heart and soul.”

Numata, a native of Pearl City, Hawaii, died in an Erie, Penn., hospital on Sept. 2 after having been involved in a skateboarding accident two days earlier.

“He’s a giver,” Erie outfielder Cam Gibson told the Detroit Free Press on Sept. 1. Gibson and Numata shared an apartment. “He’ll never ask for anything, but he’ll give. Even the small stuff. Me and him will go to Taco Bell at midnight and he forces himself in to pay for it. It’s little stuff like that. He refuses to take from people.

“He’s always dancing, always joking and making light of everything. He’s a bright light in everybody’s life. I can’t tell you the times he’s had heart-to-heart talks with me this year talking to me about what my future holds. Regardless if I’m doing well or doing bad, he’s always there. Numi is the heart and soul of this team. He has more heart and more soul than anybody in this entire organization.”

According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre (UPMC), Numata’s heart, liver, pancreas and both kidneys were involved in transplants. On Tuesday, CORE (Center for Organ Recovery and Education) and UPMC shared a video in which Numata was the subject of an honour walk.

According to a report from fox2detroit.com, “UPMC says he was taken from his hospital room down the corridor to the operating room. With his favorite song, KC & The Sunshine Band’s ‘Give it Up’, playing in the background, members of his family along with Erie SeaWolves president Greg Coleman pushed him through the hospital.

“At the end of his walk, his parents kissed him goodbye one last time.”

Tony Paul of the Detroit News has more on this story right here.

If you have never seen an honour walk, the video of the one honouring Numata is in the tweet below. Yes, it’s emotional.