A story about kidney disease and long weekends and joy and disappointment . . .


Hey, how’s the first long weekend of your summer treating you? Fine, I hope.

While some folks are complaining of being locked down — even though they are enjoying their favourite Kool-Aid on a patio and later will eat takeout from their favourite restaurant on their deck — I only hope that you are vaccinated once and waiting for No. 2.

In the meantime, allow me to provide you with some insight into kidney disease and a long weekend.

Just imagine, if you can, that you have been on dialysis for three or four years while waiting and hoping for a transplant. If you’re doing hemodialysis, you are visiting a clinic three times a week for about four hours at a time. If you’re doing peritoneal dialysis at home, you are hooking up to a machine — it’s called a cycler — every night when you go to bed. Yes, every night. Seven nights a week. In short, the cycler performs a fluid exchange while you are sleeping — toxic-filled fluid out, clean fluid in — as it does what your failed kidneys no longer are capable of doing.

Every four weeks a delivery truck pulls up at your home and the driver carries in 20 or 30 boxes of fluid and supplies. You have had to create a storage place for all of this, but, hey, you have come to understand that this is all part of living your life.

If you are lucky, you have gone through all the tests and been deemed a transplant candidate. You may have tried to find a living donor, but you haven’t had success. By now, then, you are on the deceased donor list. Yes, you know that it can be a long wait.

By now, you also have a medical team working with you. The team includes a case worker.

With a long weekend approaching, the case worker might call you with a message: (a) you’re finally near the top of the list; and (b) it’s a long weekend and that means, you know, traffic accidents and maybe . . .

One of the hard truths about being on the deceased donor list and getting a phone call is that your joy is on one side of the coin while a family’s nightmare is on the other side.

And then, just as the long weekend starts, your phone rings. There’s a kidney for you. So you and your wife pack in a hurry — you know that you could be in the big city for up to three months after surgery — and away you go.

The adrenaline carries you all the way to the hospital. You can hardly believe that the wait will soon be over. A kidney. No more dialysis. You are well aware that stuff might still happen — the best laid plans and all that — but you don’t want to think about that. You just know that your time has come.

You can’t restrain yourself from sharing the news. You pick up your phone and make a call, letting friends know that, yes, it’s almost time.

You are trying to contain your excitement, but there also is apprehension because you know that a kidney transplant is major surgery. But, really, what choice do you have? And, hey, no more dialysis. Hey, cycler, it’s been nice knowing you.

So, you’re thinking, let’s go . . . let’s get this over with.

You don’t know anything about the kidney that is heading your way — there are serious privacy concerns in these situations — but you are guessing that someone is on life support and that a decision has been made to donate organs and that you will be one of the beneficiaries. You are well aware that another family is going through a tough time.

Your thoughts are racing . . . you are incapable at the moment of compartmentalizing . . . let’s go.

And then the unthinkable happens and it all comes crashing down. You are informed that the medical team performed one last test on the donor and that test came back positive. Yes, for COVID-19.

Just like that the air is out of your balloon. You and your wife can hardly believe it. From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. All in a matter of seconds. Bewildered and disappointed doesn’t begin to describe how you feel.

But, at the same time, you know there isn’t anything you can do about it. So you try to gather your thoughts, get yourself out of the hospital and back into your car, and you begin the four-hour drive back to the comfort of your own home.

After all, the cycler is calling . . . you have to do dialysis when you get there.

Such is life with kidney disease.

If you think that what you have just read is a work of fiction, allow me to assure you that it isn’t. This exact scenario played out over the past few days.

And now he’s back playing the waiting game, wondering if/when the phone will be ring because, you know, the long weekend isn’t over.

The question of age has long been a topic of conversation when it comes to organ donation, as in: How old is too old to register as an organ donor? . . . Perhaps there is no age limit. A medical team recovered a liver from the oldest recorded organ donor in U.S. history — Cecil Lockhart, 95, of Welch, W. Va.

This is a wonderful story about a man, Dick Henry of Wyomissing, Penn., who has twice been a transplant recipient — kidney and liver at separate times — both from the same living donor. . . . Henry, 72, got a kidney from family friend Jason Hornberger on Feb. 21. That was almost five years after Henry received part of Hornberger’s liver. . . . “My story is a positive one, I had a positive outcome,” Hornberger said. “The surgery went extremely well. Maybe there’s more people who will feel more comfortable about becoming a donor moving forward.” . . . The story from WPVI-TV in Philadelphia is right here.

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


Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182



Or, for more information, visit right here.

Want an easy win to feel great? Register to be an organ donor today. It will only #TakeTwoMinutes and you could save a life. Great deed and fuzzy feels without any hassle. #Register2Give taketwominutes.ca

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