Susan Duncan: A story about kidney donation as she walks off into retirement . . .

It’s Friday, May 21, and tomorrow will be the first day of the rest of Susan Duncan’s life.

Susan, who used to be my boss at the Kamloops Daily News, is working her final day as a communications officer with the Interior Health Authority in Kamloops.

Yes, she will be riding off into what I hope is a glorious retirement.

It was after she had changed jobs, moving from The Daily News to IHA, that she donated a kidney, something she later wrote about exclusively for this website.

Here then, in honour of her retirement, is the essay she wrote about having donated a kidney. I may be biased, but I doubt that she has ever written anything better . . .

——

I donated a kidney in July 2016. I generally avoid talking about it because people then tell me how brave I was and so on. It’s embarrassing and also a huge exaggeration of my decision.

Susan
On Sept. 22, 2017, Susan Duncan found herself on the front page of Kamloops This Week, along with Lloyd Garner.

As well, I worry about encouraging someone else to donate. I don’t want the burden of guilt I will feel if someone does decide to donate a kidney and then has an unhappy experience.

But as I read the appeals by my former colleague Gregg Drinnan on behalf of desperate people searching for live kidney donors, I feel a sense of responsibility to share what it means to be an organ donor.

I realize that the time has come for me to be brave. The chances of having a bad experience are slim and there are so many sick people who need others to step up.

So here is my story. I hope one or some of you will make it yours.

I donated my left kidney and I haven’t missed it since. There was no side effect from the surgery, my blood pressure has remained low and my kidney function is normal. One healthy kidney is all this old body ever needed and, various factors aside, it’s probably all yours needs, too.

It was a bit of a fluke that I ended up being a donor. I knew the man’s wife vaguely through work and that she and her husband had three young children. I met her one day in the elevator at work and she told me she was at the hospital because her husband was there for dialysis.

He got sick suddenly in February and a few months later he was spending four hours a day, three days a week in the renal unit at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. They also lived two hours out of town so you can imagine what that was doing to their family life.

She introduced me to him and I warmed immediately to his big friendly smile. We chatted briefly about his illness, then we said goodbye. As I walked away, he called out, “Hey, if you know anyone with A positive blood type . . .”

I looked back and said, “I’m A positive . . . maybe I should get tested.” That night I researched live kidney donation and discovered that a person only needs one healthy kidney to live a full life.

The paperwork began, followed by a myriad of tests, including psychological. It turns out it doesn’t take much to be a match for a kidney donation.

At age 59, tests showed that I, an atheist mother of three grown children and two stepchildren, was a match for a 50-year-old man of deep Christian faith and father of three small children.

I went into hospital on a Monday morning and was out of surgery by noon. My husband was barely on the ninth tee when he got the call that all went well.

My former kidney got a good flushing out and was put in her new home later that afternoon. I’m told — and I’m proud of this — that she started pumping out urine before the surgeons even finished sewing her in place.

I stayed two nights in a little room at St. Paul’s Hospital, just down the hall from my match. I left the hospital at noon on Wednesday, walking slowly and feeling very tired.

Spare no tears for me though. The heroes are the patients who get the kidneys — they endure far more. But in the end, they not only stay alive, they live joyously, unencumbered by dialysis machines either at home or in the hospital.

I spent two more days in Vancouver at relatives. I took a few Tramadol (pain killers). Friday morning, my husband and I drove home to Kamloops. On Saturday afternoon, we went to a beautiful outdoor wedding and reception.

I felt really poorly once about a week after my surgery. But by the next day, I felt great and never looked back. The second Monday after surgery, I returned to work. Granted, it’s a desk job, no physical labour required aside from typing into a keyboard. If I had any other kind of a job, I likely would have been off for a month.

I also was back running long distance by September with no change in my energy.

As for scars, if you look really closely, there are two tiny scars on my left side and about a three-inch line well below my navel. If I had my shape from the 1980s, I could easily wear a bikini and no one would be the wiser.

I would like to say it’s because I’m tough, but I’ve read stories by other people who have donated kidneys and my recovery does not appear unique.

So should you donate a kidney? You should at least consider it. If you are a person who spends a lot of time worrying about your health, even though you are healthy, you probably shouldn’t. You will fixate on potential problems and experience stress you don’t need.

But if you are a healthy person who has always had normal blood pressure and you want improve a fellow human being’s life — maybe even save it — the information about live donation is right at your fingertips.

When I do think about my left kidney, I get a warm feeling that I was able to help a family. It makes me smile at times when I am feeling low.

My match regularly sends me a text to thank me. He calls me his angel. His kids wrote letters of thanks. Those are lovely gestures and I am always happy to hear he is doing well.

However, If I had never heard from him again, if he never once said thank you, if he ended up being a person who abused his body because of the disease of addiction, it would not have made me regret my decision.

I gave him a kidney and that’s that. The kidney was his. The decision to donate was mine and I had no expectation or desire for gratitude.

Some people are not able to say thank you for reasons of their own. They don’t make contact and that leaves some donors angry or hurt and second-guessing their decision.

Don’t donate if you expect thanks. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. You have a vital organ that you don’t need and someone else does.

It’s common sense.

Julie starts to settle into a kidney recipient’s routine . . . Hoping to be discharged on Sunday . . . A live donor tells her story

JulieMeds
Here’s a look at the anti-rejection meds Julie Dodds took on Thursday night after having a kidney transplant on Wednesday. (Photo: Allan Dodds)

Julie Dodds, a married mother of three young boys who lives in Kamloops, underwent a kidney transplant on Wednesday morning/afternoon at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

She was out of recovery and into her hospital room that night.

JulieIV
Julie Dodds was looking comfortable in her bed at St. Paul’s Hospital on Friday. She is hoping to be discharged on Sunday after having had a kidney transplant on Wednesday. (Photo: Allan Dodds)

Her brother, Jason Brauer of Port McNeill, B.C., was her live donor. He was up and walking to his sister’s room on Thursday morning. Later in the day, Julie and her IV pole wandered down the hallway to visit Jason in his room. And before the day was done, Jason was discharged. Yes, one day after giving up a kidney, he was on his way.

And now Julie is beginning to get a taste of the medication side of life with a new kidney.

On Thursday night, Julie’s husband, Allan, who has accompanied her for this part of her journey, provided a photo that shows the regimen of anti-rejection medication that she is taking for now.

Of course, the new kidney will be a match for Julie, otherwise the surgery wouldn’t have happened. But the kidney still is foreign to her system, so, in brief, the anti-rejection meds work to keep it from being rejected. She will take meds twice a day — 12 hours apart — for the rest of her life.

She also will be going for regular bloodwork as her medical team keeps tabs on various levels, using that knowledge to adjust her medications as necessary. Eventually, a balance will be reached — but the regular bloodwork will continue, although visits to the lab will become less frequent over the years.

As part of getting the various levels where the professionals want them, a transplant recipient often will be given meds via IV. Allan posted on Friday that Julie was hooked up to a potassium phosphate bag.

Still, he wrote, “she’s crushing the peeing.”

And that’s great news!

Julie hopes to be discharged on Sunday, although she knows that she will have to stay in Vancouver for the next couple of months. During that time, she will settle into a routine of visits to the kidney clinic at St. Paul’s as the team there continues to monitor her progress.


What follows is a piece I posted here earlier this year. It was written by Susan Duncan, who was the editor of the late Kamloops Daily News when I started there as the sports editor in the spring of 2000.

It was 16 years later when Susan, by then working for the Interior Health Authority in Kamloops, donated a kidney. This is her story, in her words — and it is really important. So if you haven’t already, please give it a read.

——

I donated a kidney in July 2016. I generally avoid talking about it because people then tell me how brave I was and so on. It’s embarrassing and also a huge exaggeration of my decision.

As well, I worry about encouraging someone else to donate. I don’t want the burden of guilt I will feel if someone does decide to donate a kidney and then has an unhappy experience.

But as I read the appeals by my former colleague Gregg Drinnan on behalf of desperate people searching for live kidney donors, I feel a sense of responsibility to share what it means to be an organ donor.

I realize that the time has come for me to be brave. The chances of having a bad experience are slim and there are so many sick people who need others to step up.

So here is my story. I hope one or some of you will make it yours.

Susan
On Sept. 22, 2017, Susan Duncan found herself on the front page of Kamloops This Week, along with Lloyd Garner.

I donated my left kidney four years ago and I haven’t missed it since. There was no side effect from the surgery, my blood pressure has remained low and my kidney function is normal. One healthy kidney is all this old body ever needed and, various factors aside, it’s probably all yours needs, too.

It was a bit of a fluke that I ended up being a donor. I knew the man’s wife vaguely through work and that she and her husband had three young children. I met her one day in the elevator at work and she told me she was at the hospital because her husband was there for dialysis.

He got sick suddenly in February and a few months later he was spending four hours a day, three days a week in the renal unit at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. They also lived two hours out of town so you can imagine what that was doing to their family life.

She introduced me to him and I warmed immediately to his big friendly smile. We chatted briefly about his illness, then we said goodbye. As I walked away, he called out, “Hey, if you know anyone with A positive blood type . . .”

I looked back and said, “I’m A positive . . . maybe I should get tested.” That night I researched live kidney donation and discovered that a person only needs one healthy kidney to live a full life.

The paperwork began, followed by a myriad of tests, including psychological. It turns out it doesn’t take much to be a match for a kidney donation.

At age 59, tests showed that I, an atheist mother of three grown children and two stepchildren, was a match for a 50-year-old man of deep Christian faith and father of three small children.

I went into hospital on a Monday morning and was out of surgery by noon. My husband was barely on the ninth tee when he got the call that all went well.

My former kidney got a good flushing out and was put in her new home later that afternoon. I’m told — and I’m proud of this — that she started pumping out urine before the surgeons even finished sewing her in place.

I stayed two nights in a little room at St. Paul’s Hospital, just down the hall from my match. I left the hospital at noon on Wednesday, walking slowly and feeling very tired.

Spare no tears for me though. The heroes are the patients who get the kidneys — they endure far more. But in the end, they not only stay alive, they live joyously, unencumbered by dialysis machines either at home or in the hospital.

I spent two more days in Vancouver at relatives. I took a few Tramadol (pain killers). Friday morning, my husband and I drove home to Kamloops. On Saturday afternoon, we went to a beautiful outdoor wedding and reception.

I felt really poorly once about a week after my surgery. But by the next day, I felt great and never looked back. The second Monday after surgery, I returned to work. Granted, it’s a desk job, no physical labour required aside from typing into a keyboard. If I had any other kind of a job, I likely would have been off for a month.

I also was back running long distance by September with no change in my energy.

As for scars, if you look really closely, there are two tiny scars on my left side and about a three-inch line well below my navel. If I had my shape from the 1980s, I could easily wear a bikini and no one would be the wiser.

I would like to say it’s because I’m tough, but I’ve read stories by other people who have donated kidneys and my recovery does not appear unique.

So should you donate a kidney? You should at least consider it. If you are a person who spends a lot of time worrying about your health, even though you are healthy, you probably shouldn’t. You will fixate on potential problems and experience stress you don’t need.

But if you are a healthy person who has always had normal blood pressure and you want improve a fellow human being’s life — maybe even save it — the information about live donation is right at your fingertips.

When I do think about my left kidney, I get a warm feeling that I was able to help a family. It makes me smile at times when I am feeling low.

My match regularly sends me a text to thank me. He calls me his angel. His kids wrote letters of thanks. Those are lovely gestures and I am always happy to hear he is doing well.

However, If I had never heard from him again, if he never once said thank you, if he ended up being a person who abused his body because of the disease of addiction, it would not have made me regret my decision.

I gave him a kidney and that’s that. The kidney was his. The decision to donate was mine and I had no expectation or desire for gratitude.

Some people are not able to say thank you for reasons of their own. They don’t make contact and that leaves some donors angry or hurt and second-guessing their decision.

Don’t donate if you expect thanks. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. You have a vital organ that you don’t need and someone else does.

It’s common sense.


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

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.

Living kidney donor: ‘So should you donate a kidney? You should at least consider it.’

Susan
On Sept. 22, 2017, Susan Duncan found herself on the front page of Kamloops This Week, along with Lloyd Garner to whom she had given a kidney.

Susan Duncan has been a friend for more than 20 years. She was the editor at the Kamloops Daily News who hired me as sports editor in 2000. I loved working for and with her because there weren’t any mind games, and she never held a grudge — at least, I don’t think she did. We had our disagreements — I can recall one shouting match in the middle of the newsroom — but when they were over they were over.

Susan left The Daily News for a positoin as Communications Officer with Interior Health in February 2011, no doubt using her female intuition to flee the sinking ship before many of us realized it was taking on water. But she was there when my wife, Dorothy, started doing peritoneal dialysis, and Susan always offered great support.

Little did I know at the time that Susan would end up as part of our kidney family. In 2017, organizers of the annual Kidney Walk in Kamloops selected her as the event’s honouree.

What follows arrived via email on Monday. It is Susan’s story . . . in her words.


I donated a kidney in July 2016. I generally avoid talking about it because people then tell me how brave I was and so on. It’s embarrassing and also a huge exaggeration of my decision.

As well, I worry about encouraging someone else to donate. I don’t want the burden of guilt I will feel if someone does decide to donate a kidney and then has an unhappy experience.

But as I read the appeals by my former colleague Gregg Drinnan on behalf of desperate people searching for live kidney donors, I feel a sense of responsibility to share what it means to be an organ donor.

I realize that the time has come for me to be brave. The chances of having a bad experience are slim and there are so many sick people who need others to step up.

So here is my story. I hope one or some of you will make it yours.

I donated my left kidney four years ago and I haven’t missed it since. There was no side effect from the surgery, my blood pressure has remained low and my kidney function is normal. One healthy kidney is all this old body ever needed and, various factors aside, it’s probably all yours needs, too.

It was a bit of a fluke that I ended up being a donor. I knew the man’s wife vaguely through work and that she and her husband had three young children. I met her one day in the elevator at work and she told me she was at the hospital because her husband was there for dialysis.

He got sick suddenly in February and a few months later he was spending four hours a day, three days a week in the renal unit at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. They also lived two hours out of town so you can imagine what that was doing to their family life.

She introduced me to him and I warmed immediately to his big friendly smile. We chatted briefly about his illness, then we said goodbye. As I walked away, he called out, “Hey, if you know anyone with A positive blood type . . .”

I looked back and said, “I’m A positive . . . maybe I should get tested.” That night I researched live kidney donation and discovered that a person only needs one healthy kidney to live a full life.

The paperwork began, followed by a myriad of tests, including psychological. It turns out it doesn’t take much to be a match for a kidney donation.

At age 59, tests showed that I, an atheist mother of three grown children and two stepchildren, was a match for a 50-year-old man of deep Christian faith and father of three small children.

I went into hospital on a Monday morning and was out of surgery by noon. My husband was barely on the ninth tee when he got the call that all went well.

My former kidney got a good flushing out and was put in her new home later that afternoon. I’m told — and I’m proud of this — that she started pumping out urine before the surgeons even finished sewing her in place.

I stayed two nights in a little room at St. Paul’s Hospital, just down the hall from my match. I left the hospital at noon on Wednesday, walking slowly and feeling very tired.

Spare no tears for me though. The heroes are the patients who get the kidneys — they endure far more. But in the end, they not only stay alive, they live joyously, unencumbered by dialysis machines either at home or in the hospital.

I spent two more days in Vancouver at relatives. I took a few Tramadol (pain killers). Friday morning, my husband and I drove home to Kamloops. On Saturday afternoon, we went to a beautiful outdoor wedding and reception.

I felt really poorly once about a week after my surgery. But by the next day, I felt great and never looked back. The second Monday after surgery, I returned to work. Granted, it’s a desk job, no physical labour required aside from typing into a keyboard. If I had any other kind of a job, I likely would have been off for a month.

I also was back running long distance by September with no change in my energy.

As for scars, if you look really closely, there are two tiny scars on my left side and about a three-inch line well below my navel. If I had my shape from the 1980s, I could easily wear a bikini and no one would be the wiser.

I would like to say it’s because I’m tough, but I’ve read stories by other people who have donated kidneys and my recovery does not appear unique.

So should you donate a kidney? You should at least consider it. If you are a person who spends a lot of time worrying about your health, even though you are healthy, you probably shouldn’t. You will fixate on potential problems and experience stress you don’t need.

But if you are a healthy person who has always had normal blood pressure and you want improve a fellow human being’s life — maybe even save it — the information about live donation is right at your fingertips.

When I do think about my left kidney, I get a warm feeling that I was able to help a family. It makes me smile at times when I am feeling low.

My match regularly sends me a text to thank me. He calls me his angel. His kids wrote letters of thanks. Those are lovely gestures and I am always happy to hear he is doing well.

However, If I had never heard from him again, if he never once said thank you, if he ended up being a person who abused his body because of the disease of addiction, it would not have made me regret my decision.

I gave him a kidney and that’s that. The kidney was his. The decision to donate was mine and I had no expectation or desire for gratitude.

Some people are not able to say thank you for reasons of their own. They don’t make contact and that leaves some donors angry or hurt and second-guessing their decision.

Don’t donate if you expect thanks. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. You have a vital organ that you don’t need and someone else does.

It’s common sense.

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

——

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.