Getting flu shot not about you . . . Some thoughts on being living kidney donor

Every time I see people on social media making mention of how they haven’t had the flu in 1,000 years and have never had a flu shot, well, my blood boils and smoke comes out my ears.

People, people, people. This isn’t about you not getting the flu. A flu shot is to help prevent you, who may be a carrier, from passing it along to someone else, like maybe a transplant recipient who has a suppressed immune system because of the anti-rejection medications that they must take, or maybe a senior citizen — perhaps your own grandmother or grandfather — whose immune system isn’t strong enough to reject a flu bug.

Please, please, please . . . a flu shot isn’t about you; it’s about other people in your community.

Get your flu shot!


There were a couple of things that really jumped out at me when I read the report on organ transplantation in 2018 that was released Thursday by the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI).

Using data from the Canadian Organ Replacement Register, the report included: “There were 40,289 Canadians (excluding Quebec) living with end-stage kidney disease at the end of 2018, an increase of 35 per cent since 2009.”

An increase of 35 per cent in 10 years means that today there will be even more people living with chronic kidney disease (CKD).

That number — 40,289 — jumped off the page when I first read it.

The other note that really hit hard was this: “(In 2018), there were 555 living donors (people who donated a kidney or a lobe of liver) and 762 deceased donors in Canada. The number of deceased donors increased by 56 per cent between 2009 and 2018, whereas the number of living donors remained stable.”

I was more than a little surprised to read the “the number of living donors remained stable.”

More and more people are being impacted by CKD, and everyone needs to realize that there isn’t a cure for it. Once someone is diagnosed with kidney disease, that’s it . . . it’s there and it isn’t going anywhere.

At some point there will dialysis and, hopefully, a transplant.

There are two ways to get a kidney via transplant — from a deceased donor or from a live donor.

The best option, of course, is from a live donor, and people need to understand that you can make sure a recipient gets a kidney even if you don’t have the same blood type.

I am aware of a number of people in Kamloops who are waiting and hoping for transplants — like Julie Dodds, who was featured on CFJC-TV on Thursday; like Vic Morin and John Casey, both of whom are regulars at Kamloops Kidney Support Group meetings; like Ferris Backmeyer, who isn’t yet three years of age but is on dialysis for about 12 hours a day, every day of the year. There’s also Zach Tremblay, a 16-year-old from Robson, B.C., who continues to wait for the phone call.

Let’s say that you are a friend of Julie’s and would love to help, but you aren’t the same blood type. That being the case, you might still be able to give your kidney to someone else — yes, it might even be a complete stranger — while Julie would get a kidney from another person, who might be another stranger.

That is how the Living Kidney Donor Program works — aka Live Donor Exchange Program.

That is exactly how Dorothy, my wife, got her new kidney on Sept. 23, 2013. Her best friend was adamant that she wanted to give a kidney to Dorothy. However, the friend wasn’t a match. Both names went into the exchange program and in time matches were found and transplants were done.

If you are interested in more information, here you go:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

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Sam Thompson of Global News has more right here on the CIHI report. He spoke with Dr. Faisal Siddiqui of Transplant Manitoba, who told him that there still is a stigma when it comes to families talking about death and organ donation. “It’s a human nature aspect,” Dr. Siddiqui said, “that we just don’t like sitting around the kitchen table and saying, ‘when I die, this is what I want out of life, or what I want for me.’ ” . . . Dr. Siddiqui also explained that not everyone is able to be an organ donor. . . . That complete story is right here.


I have written here previously on the story involving Catherine Pearlman, and Monica and Eli Valdez. You may recall that Catherine was in a Los Angeles-area coffee shop one day when she saw a flyer that had been placed there by Monica, whose husband, Eli, needed a kidney. . . . Yes, Catherine ended up donating a kidney. . . . If you click right here, you will find a video in which the three of them tell their story. It’s worth the three-plus minutes to give it a watch. (Full disclosure: The video was put together by Hyundai, but it isn’t a commercial. Catherine drives a Hyundai. Oh, so do I.)

BTW, I am aware of two similar stories right here in Kamloops, both of which involve women who each gave a kidney to strangers. Susan Duncan’s story is right here, while Cheryl Vosburgh’s can be found right here.

Vosburgh of Kamloops donates a kidney. . . . Recipient: “She changed my life.”

CherylVosburgh
Cheryl Vosburgh of Kamloops, who knows all about being a living kidney donor, addresses the crowd during the city’s 2019 Kidney Walk. (Photo: Murray Mitchell/Murray Mitchell Photography)

To a person experiencing kidney failure, there are a number of advantages to being fortunate enough to get a transplant from a live donor.

From the Kidney Foundation of Canada website:

“The organ donation and transplant surgeries can be scheduled when both the donor and recipient are in the best possible health. This will help to ensure the quality of the donated kidney is at its highest. The amount of time between removing the kidney from the donor and transplanting it into the recipient is shorter than for a deceased donation. This may help the transplanted kidney to function better and/or last longer.

The length of time the recipient waits for an organ to become available is shorter when the organ comes from a living donor. Also, other recipients on the transplant waiting list who do not have a living donor themselves move up the transplant waiting list once the recipient of the living donor kidney is removed from the list. In that way, other people waiting for a kidney transplant also benefit from a living donation.”

There also are some other advantages, as pointed out on the Foundation’s website:

“A transplanted kidney from a living donor often lasts longer. This is partly due to more time being available to do the necessary tests to get a better tissue match between donor and recipient. A better tissue match means higher compatibility and less risk of organ rejection.

The kidney from a living donor is usually healthier than an organ from a deceased donor and may last longer: 15 to 20 years on average, compared to 10 to 15 years for a deceased kidney donation. This is largely because extensive testing is done on the donor to ensure the donor has excellent kidney function.

“A kidney from a living donor usually works right away in the recipient. A kidney from a deceased donor may take days or weeks before it starts to work normally. In the meantime, the recipient may need dialysis treatments.”

And let’s not forget about this: For the donor, it is a very positive psychological experience knowing that he or she has helped someone in need.”

All of which brings us to the story of John Glenn Miller of Vancouver and Cheryl Vosburgh, who lives in Kamloops.

“Two years ago,” writes Cheryl Chan of Postmedia, “John Glenn Miller pushed through his embarrassment and discomfort to make a plea online for a new kidney. Today, he’s a new man — thanks to a priceless gift from a stranger.”

Vosburgh was that stranger.

A story about Miller, who has 12-year-old twin sons, appeared in a Vancouver newspaper in April 2017. He needed a kidney. As he waited and hoped that a match would somehow be found, and while he was on dialysis, Vosburgh made the decision to donate a kidney.

In researching the issue of kidney donation, she came across that 2017 story about Miller. Things worked out and the surgery was performed at Vancouver General Hospital on Aug. 21.

Chan’s story can be found in the tweet that is below.

Vosburgh, 59, lives in Kamloops and attended her first Kamloops Kidney Support Group gathering exactly three weeks after having had surgery. We were an enthralled group as we listened to her tell her story.

She also said that she wants to continue to advocate for organ donation and transplantation. If you are thinking about being a live kidney donor and have any questions, email me at greggdrinnan@gmail.com and I will get you in touch with Vosburgh.


Dogs
When Kamloops’ 2019 Kidney Walk was held at McDonald Park on Sept. 22, organizers welcomed four-legged walkers, too. (Photo: Murray Mitchell/Murray Mitchell Photography)
Breakfast
Yes, those of us who took part in the 2019 Kidney Walk Kamloops had enough sausages to eat with our breakfast, thanks to the Brock Central Lions Club. (Photo: Murray Mitchell/Murray Mitchell Photography)

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ThankYou