All about washing your hands, suppressed immune systems and a Kidney Gala . . .


Have you ever wondered what life is like for a transplant recipient — be it heart, lung or kidney — living with a suppressed immune system? . . . “For transplant patients,” writes Blair Crawford of the Ottawa Citizen, “the fear of infection is a daily fact of life. They all take drugs to suppress their immune system to reduce the risk their new organ will be rejected. (Tina) Proulx’s life depends on the Purell hand sanitizer and Lysol and Clorox wipes that are now being swept off store shelves and stockpiled by panicked shoppers.” . . . Proulx has a double lung transplant in December 2015. . . . Crawford has written a terrific piece that explains it all, and it is right here.


The eighth annual Kidney Gala was held in Vancouver recently, and Fred Lee, who handles Fred Lee’s Social Network for the Vancouver Province, was one of the co-hosts.

Stephen Gillis, who 17 days earlier had undergone a kidney transplant, and Michael Teigen, who was Gillis’s donor, were on hand and received a stirring standing ovation.

For more on the Kidney Gala, including photos, click right here.

——

BTW, congrats to Stephen Gillis and his Vancouver Minor Atom A1 hockey team for their championship. They won the PCAHA Presidents Series title earlier in the week.

If you have been following Gillis’s story over the past year you know just how much this hockey team means to him.

Here’s a bit of what Gillis posted on Facebook:

“Thank you to our friends at Burnaby Winter Club for a spirited series. You’re a team of class and sportsmanship and it has been great to play you all year. Thank you for your team’s kindness and support during my health journey.

“So proud of our squad. On and off the ice they gave 110% and would never quit. This was a special team. Excited to see the great things these kids achieve. Stay relentless.

“Thank you to my amazing parent group for an outstanding season. It was a privilege to coach this team and you all jumped on board with my plan. I am so grateful for your support of the team, our culture and mission, and the constant support, kindness, and generosity you have shown me throughout my health issues. Truly, thank you.

“We dedicated tonight’s victory to young Zachary Tremblay and his mother Jana. Zach has become a hero to our team. At 16, he is currently on dialysis and is in need of a kidney donor (O negative or positive blood). We want to help Zach’s message and find him a heroic donor. Please spread the word and let’s find Zach a donor.”

——

If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

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


Harry Bryant, a grandfather who lives in Vernon, B.C., has turned to Facebook in an attempt to find a living kidney donor. If you’re on Facebook, you are able to check out his page — Grandpa Needs a Kidney. . . . Caitlin Clow of the Vernon Morning Star recently did a story on Bryant, and it’s all right here.





Happy birthday to Ferris . . . How about a new kidney for a belated birthday present?

Ferris Backmeyer of Kamloops turned three years of age this week, and we all are hoping that this is the year in which she gets a new kidney.

FerrisJan2020
Here’s hoping that this is the year in which Ferris Backmeyer, 3, of Kamloops gets a new kidney. (Photo: Lindsey Backmeyer/Facebook)

On the occasion of Ferris’s third birthday, her mother, Lindsey, posted an update on Facebook:

“Happy Birthday sweet girl!

“Ferris has officially completed all her transplant assessment and we will hear more about listing and what the next several months will look like next Friday.

“I am not able to donate and we learned that Pat (Ferris’s father) is not a blood match for Ferris. We are reaching out and spreading her story in hopes that we may find just the right kidney for her!

“Our consult with the surgeons went about as I suspected it would. They are wanting her to be even bigger. For her to transplant at the size she is now we would need the perfect-sized kidney for her little body.

“I’m anxious that this process might take a long time. Our first year on dialysis was hard. She was really sick. The past eight months have been great and I worry we will miss our transplant window. She is strong and ready now.

“Please . . . help us find a kidney for our sweet girl!”

——

If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

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


Flu shots. Get them. Period.

What follows is from Interior Health’s website, under the headline 2019-20 Seasonal Influenza Campaign:

“Flu shots are safe, easy to get, and free for those at risk and their household contacts.

“The people at the greatest risk of influenza-related complications are adults and children with underlying health conditions, residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities, people 65 years of age and older, children under 60 months of age, pregnant women, and Aboriginal peoples.

“It’s important that those who have loved ones that are most at risk of complications from influenza get vaccinated. This will help to build a wall of protection around your loved one and reduce their chances of acquiring influenza illness.”

Get a flu shot. Every single year. Transplant recipients and others who are at risk will appreciate it.


If you are going to be in the Pittsburgh area on May 12, you may want to take in the MLB game between the Pirates and San Francisco Giants. It will be Organ Donation Awareness Night at PNC Park. A portion of ticket sales will go to support CORE.

From a news release:

“The Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) is one of 58 federally designated not-for-profit organ procurement organizations (OPOs) in the United States. CORE works closely with donor families and designated healthcare professionals to deliver the gift of hope by co-ordinating the surgical recovery of organs, tissues and corneas for transplantation. CORE also facilitates the computerized matching of donated organs, tissues and corneas. With integrity and compassion, our goal is to bridge the gap between donor families, health care providers and transplant recipients so that we may forever transform lives.”

——

Teghan Simonton of triblive.com reported in mid-January that CORE “facilitated 661 transplants in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia last year — an increase from 2018 by nearly 10 per cent.” . . . She added: “There were 253 deceased organ donors in the region, nearly 20 per cent more than in 2018. Of those, 198 donors were in Western Pennsylvania. That’s up from 2018, when there were 162.” . . . There were 226 living donors involved in transplants, up from 191 in 2018. . . . As of mid-January, there were 112,693 people in the U.S. waiting for transplants. . . . Simonton’s story is right here.

——

BC Transplant hasn’t released its 2019 numbers yet, but there is word of a record 2019 from the Universal Health Network (UHN), which is based in Toronto and bills itself as “one of the largest organ transplant centres in North America.”

In 2019, they did 201 kidneys, 202 livers, 209 lungs, 40 pancreas and 40 hearts. That adds up to 701 patients.

Zach closer to going home, but still needs kidney . . . Surgeon reflects on all he has seen, done and more

ZachT
These days, Zach Tremblay is kicking back at Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver. (Photo: Jana Tremblay/Facebook)

Zach Tremblay has been discharged from B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, but isn’t yet able to return home to Robson, B.C.

Zach, 16, had been doing peritoneal dialysis until it recently became ineffective. So

ZachTremblay
Zach Tremblay is 16 now, and he still needs a kidney. The phone numbers will get you to the Live Donor Exchange Program at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

during his most-recent stay at BCCH, he has been transitioning to hemodialysis.

His mother, Jana, has been keeping family and friends up to date by posting on Facebook. On Saturday, she wrote that they now are staying at Ronald McDonald House . . .

“Who’s a rock star . . . yup it’s our kid — we are officially discharged to RMH! He is doing hemo 4 times a week right now, 3.5 hours each session, and tolerating it beautifully. We will work up to 3 times a week, 4-hour sessions to be on the same schedule as Trail. Staying here for now makes that very convenient!

“PD is officially done and he will have that catheter removed probably one day next week . One step closer to home . . . The ride is a crazy one , so thanks for staying on it !! We love you all.”

When Zach and his mother return to Robson, his care will be in the hands of the staff at Trail’s Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital while he waits for a kidney transplant. All that’s needed is a donor.

——

If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

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


This piece right here, from npr.org, is terrific. There is a 35-minute clip that you are able to listen to, or you can read a short story that features a few excerpts from that interview. . . . It is with Dr. Joshua Mezrich, who is an associate professor in the division of multi organ transplantation at the U of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison. . . . He has been involved in hundreds of kidney, liver and pancreas transplants, and talks about his experiences and a whole lot more right here. . . . These transplant surgeons really are special people. I know that I really enjoyed the conversations I had with Dr. Brian Mayson at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, before and after Dorothy’s transplant more than six years ago. He always made you feel as though he had all the time in the world to converse with you, and that is something that we really appreciated.


Former NFL defensive POY needs kidney . . . Campbell River volunteer honoured . . . How do vaccines work?

If you are a sports fan, especially a football fan, you will remember Albert Haynesworth, a big, bad pass-rushing maniac who was the NFL’s defensive player of the year in 2008 while with the Tennessee Titans. . . .These days, Haynesworth does hemodialysis three times a week five hours at a time, starting at 6:15 a.m. . . . “He shares this cramped space with people from all backgrounds: white and black, young and old, successful and otherwise . . . diverse but depressingly the same, in that they each desperately need a kidney,” writes Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated. “Haynesworth’s doctors have made that clear to him. Even this mountainous man, once as feared as any in football, finds himself worrying about dying young, about all the graduations and weddings and milestones he would miss.” . . . A friend is well along in the testing process, and Haynesworth just may get that kidney this year. . . . Bishop’s complete story — it’s a good one and it’s a long read — is right here. . . . (Thanks to long-time friend Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, for passing along the link to this story.)


——

If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

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


It was in late November when Shawn Logan of Postmedia put together a story on how an organ gets from a donor to a recipient. It’s a good story and, if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a look. . . . Logan opens the story: “A critical window opens for only a short period of time when a family makes the life-changing decision to allow a dying loved one to become an organ and tissue donor. The window can only open during two types of deaths, which allow for doctors to harvest vital organs and tissue that can be used to save or improve the lives of others. The first death is one in which the brain stops functioning (neurological death), but other vital functions remain operative. The second is cardio-circulatory death, in which life is not sustainable without a ventilator.” . . . The complete story is right here.

——

Meanwhile, Shraddha Chakradhar of statnews.com wrote an interesting piece this week on a major development in the area of heart transplants in the U.S. “A new method of ‘reanimating’ donor hearts from those who have died from cardiac failure is currently being tested in the U.S.,” Chakradhar reports, adding that this program “may soon ease” the burden on the more than 250,000 Americans who are at the end stages of heart failure. . . . “Last month, a team at Duke University was the first in the U.S. to perform the procedure in an adult as part of a multicenter clinical trial,” the story continues. “And just last week, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the University of Wisconsin in Madison, which are also a part of the trial, reported their first such transplant.” . . . This enlightening and newsy story is right here.







Yukon politicians need to do better with dialysis file . . . More on Zach Tremblay . . . Fraser Valley hotdog king makes great decision

Allow me to throw a few words in the direction of politicians in the Yukon: Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) isn’t going away. In fact, as time goes on medical advancements are going to mean more diagnoses, meaning CKD is only going to take a bigger and bigger bite out of your population, as it is everywhere else. . . . In the medical community, it is generally accepted that one in 10 Canadians is living with kidney disease or is at risk, and most of those people are unaware of their situation. . . . I would suggest that Yukon isn’t a statistical anomaly, so I also would suggest that the fact there isn’t a community dialysis unit in your area of our country is something of an embarrassing tragedy. . . .

If you are a regular here, you will be aware that Terry Coventry, 74, died in Whitehorse General Hospital on Jan. 3. He had kidney disease and was doing hemodialysis in Vancouver until, plagued by loneliness, he chose to return home even though he knew he was facing certain death.

He invited media to visit with him in hospital in Whitehorse on Dec. 10, telling them: “I’m not afraid (of dying). I’m just kind of pissed off that there’s nothing they can do for me . . . I sure hope it’ll help the next person, you know? For whatever reason, we should have a dialysis here at the hospital. We don’t.”

Jackie Hong of Yukon News has reported that Coventry’s sister, Kelly, is picking up the torch that her brother had been carrying.

“Terry has gone peacefully and the way that he wanted to, and that gives me a great deal of joy,” Kelly told Hong earlier this week. “It also gives me a great deal of joy knowing we were able to kind of tick all of the boxes that he wanted to get accomplished before his passing, and the only thing left is getting a hemodialysis machine here in the Yukon. . . .

“The success is going to have a hemodialysis machine here in the Yukon so that people don’t have to experience what he experienced and when that happens, and I say when, not if . . .  then Terry’s last wish will be completed.

“Hopefully things will move quickly once everything is settled and I can sort of get the push on again.”

Here’s hoping that there are politicians in the north country who are paying attention and prepared to make a difference.

Hong’s complete story is right here.


Zach Tremblay and his mother, Jana, finally got to Vancouver on Monday. You will recall that they are from Robson, B.C., and that Zach, 16, is in need of a kidney transplant. Late last week, he began having some issues and the decision was made to get him to

ZachTremblay
Zach Tremblay is 16 now, and he still needs a kidney. The phone numbers will get you to the Live Donor Exchange Program at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

Vancouver so his medical team could take a look.

Just to complete the story that began then. . . .

Unable to fly out of Trail, B.C., due to inclement weather in various locations, Zach and Jana ended up making the trip to Kelowna via ground ambulance. Jana posted late Sunday night/early Monday morning:

“Kelowna — safe and sound — BUT, and that’s a mighty big butt, there’s nothing nice to be said about travelling facing backwards and not being able to see where we were going. 🤢

“Settled in for the night , and onward to Van tomorrow

“We truly love you all.”

——

On Monday morning, she posted:

“We are still in Kelowna. We woke to a huge snow storm and I don’t think planes are moving right now. His BP was pretty stable overnight and he’s resting well . . . no idea when we will get to Van but eventually we will.

“Thanks for staying on this crazy ride.

“Love to you all.”

——

Later Monday, she wrote:

“We have FINALLY arrived in Van — no real updates — he’s getting the care he needs and we are where we need to be for now.

“We thank you all for the love and support and for just loving our boy and our family.

“#TeamZach is one of a kind of and we are blessed to have each and every one of you a part of it.”

——

On Thursday night, Jana told me that Zach’s medical team has decided that peritoneal dialysis “isn’t working well for him anymore and he will be having a hemo catheter placed” on Friday.

Once Zach’s situation stabilizes, he and Jana will return home, after which his care will be placed in the hands of the staff at a hospital in Trail, B.C., which is about 30 km south of Robson.

——

If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, perhaps to help Zach or anyone else in need of a kidney, more information is available here:

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


“Skully White is known around Abbotsford as a charitable guy,” wrote Vikki Hopes of the Abbotsford News. . . . Hopes then went on to chronicle many of White’s contributions to the community and, believe me, there are a lot of them. . . . Now, though, Hopes is taking charity to a whole new level. . . . “He’s donating a kidney to one of his customers, Tim Hiscock,” Hopes wrote. . . . Hopes’ story of how this all came about is right here.




Zach’s search for kidney continues . . . Coventry hoped his death will bring change to Yukon

Gord McIntyre of Postmedia chatted with Jana Tremblay the other day and the result — a story on Jana’s son Zach — was in Vancouver’s two daily papers on Friday. . . . The hunt is on for a kidney for Zach, 16, who spends 14 hours a day undergoing dialysis. The Tremblays live in Robson, B.C., just across the Columbia River from Castlegar. . . . McIntyre’s story is right here.

I first wrote about Zach in October. That piece is right here.

NOTE: Just as I posted this on Saturday morning, Jana Tremblay was putting a note on Facebook . . .

“Because life just likes to keep us on our toes, we are currently sitting in Trail Hospital, awaiting air transport to Vancouver. Zach has very high BP , and needs some TLC from his team.
And just to throw an extra kink into things , weather in Van has our flight on hold … that’s a switch 😜
Keep good thoughts for our boy.”

We’re thinking about you, Zach.


Terry Coventry lived in Whitehorse for 61 years; he died of kidney failure in Whitehorse on Friday at the age of 74. . . . Coventry died four weeks after a final dialysis treatment. . . . He had ended up at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver in July and spent four months there. With dialysis treatment unavailable in Whitehorse and not wanting to relocate to Vancouver, Coventry returned to the Yukon city to die.

On Dec. 10, Coventry called reporters to his bedside in Whitehorse General Hospital. “Maybe my death, and my complaint here, will trigger something in the government so the next guy coming along can be here and won’t be shipped down south,” Coventry told reporters. “I’m going to die. That’s it . . . I’m not afraid, I’m just kind of pissed off.”

Steve Silva of CBC News has more right here.

Gabrielle Pivonka of the Whitehorse Star was among the reporters at Coventry’s bedside on Dec. 10. Her story, which is right here, helps to explain why hemo-dialysis isn’t available in Whitehorse.


Those involved with The Kidney Project feel that they are moving ever closer to eliminating the need for dialysis. . . . The team reported in November that U of California — San Francisco “scientists have successfully implanted a prototype kidney bioreactor containing functional human kidney cells into pigs without significant safety concerns. The device, which is about the size of a deck of cards, did not trigger an immune reaction or cause blood clots in the animals, an important milestone on the road to future human trials.” . . . Team member Shuvo Roy, PhD, said in a news release: “This is the first demonstration that kidney cells can be implanted successfully in a large animal without immunosuppression and remain healthy enough to perform their function. This is a key milestone for us. . . . Based on these results, we can now focus on scaling up the bioreactor and combining it with the blood filtration component of the artificial kidney.” . . . The complete news release is right here.




Picard looks at the Chopped Livers . . . Toronto reporter details her kidney transplant

OrganDonation


André Picard, a healthy reporter and columnist with The Globe and Mail, had an interesting story on Saturday. The print story was headlined ‘Giving life, and a bit of liver, to a stranger,’ while online it carried this headline: ‘Meet the Chopped Livers — altruistic Canadians who have donated a part of their livers to strangers to save lives’ . . . The story mostly deals with people who have chosen to donate a piece of their liver to those in need. . . .

Picard’s story included this:

“Given the dire shortage of organs for transplant — there are 3,150 Canadians waiting for a kidney and 527 waiting for a liver — public appeals are on the rise.

“That makes many clinicians and ethicists uncomfortable. They worry that desperately needed organs will go to those with compelling stories rather than those most in need, as illustrated by the case of Eugene Melnyk, the owner of the Ottawa Senators, who received a liver transplant in 2015 after a public appeal.

“More than 500 people offered to donate a part of their liver to Mr. Melnyk, and 20 of them actually continued with the process to become living donors.”

After the response to Melnyk’s appeal in 2015 and the ensuing successful transplant, I sometimes wondered how many of the potential donors had gone ahead even after not being selected to help him. Now I know.

Picard’s story is right here.





We’ll be back next year! Happy New Year!!!