Can you tell us what led to you needing a transplant?
"When I was four years old I was diagnosed with a kidney disease called Alport Syndrome. I was fine for most of my childhood but when I was about 16 years old my kidney function began to change. I had to change my diet, go on medication, I was monitored closely by the kidney care clinic and then slowly I had to start dialysis. The journey from turning 16 to starting dialysis was a progressive change - it didn't happen overnight but it changed everything. Finally in March of 2010, I received a new kidney and at that point, I really needed a new kidney to live."
What were some of the things that went through your mind thinking about the procedure?
"I was on dialysis while we were in the process of finding a donor so I would say a kidney transplant was the light at the end of the tunnel in many aspects. The time leading up to it was filled with disappointment, hope and anticipation. Many of my family members came forward but nothing was working, my mom even applied for the paired exchange program but she was rejected right at the end. Eventually, my friend Tanya donated her kidney to me; she was quite determined from day one to do it and happened to match perfectly with me. In the last year before the transplant surgery, it went from 'this will improve my life' to 'I need this for life'. My health had declined to a point where it became an 'I need this or who knows'. The ultimate point where I got nervous was in the pre-op area with the surgery but fortunately everything went smoothly."
Describe the day you received news that there was a kidney match for you. Can you touch on what those emotions were like?
"About three months before my kidney transplant I had three grand mal seizures one evening and at that time, nobody knew why this was happening. My nephrologist and neurologist concluded that my body just couldn't handle the stress it was under and so I was put into a drug induced coma for four days. This is when Tanya found out. Usually I would call her before her appointments to say good luck but this time it was my mom calling to update her on what was happening. At the hospital when I was still in the drug induced coma, she said, "Todd! The transplant's a go!". With my confused state at the time, I heard that and I was so excited that I tried getting out of bed. I found out consciously after that when I woke up out of the coma and they confirmed that it was a go. We had to wait a month to make sure the seizures weren't chronic but it was an emotional phone call to receive from BC Transplant when they called to inform us about the surgery details."
How has your quality of life been since receiving transplant?
"Night and day I would say, in the simplest terms. Almost immediately after the surgery, I physically felt the effects of a healthy working kidney. The surgeon mentioned that within 20 minutes of putting it in, the kidney started working. A couple of days after that, the foggy mind that many end stage kidney disease patients experience started disappearing as well. Within 5 weeks of the surgery, my energy was coming back and then I was able to eat normally again and actually taste the various flavours. It has been truly remarkable. Post-transplant, I have been healthy, full of energy, got married, got to pursue my career, travel and lead a very happy and full life."
What would you like to say to the medical teams that are so vital to the success of transplant in our province and in your own circumstance?
"I don't know if there are words that can fully express gratitude to the medical teams because everyone from the surgeons to the nurses, to the transplant team, every single one of them has provided world class medical care. I continue to express my gratitude to every single one of them for everything that they do, it's truly amazing."
Can you tell us more about Tanya, your kidney donor?
"Tanya and I first met when I was 14 years, I was interested in politics and she was working for the local MP at the time. I remember walking up into her office and told her that I wanted to do everything she did. She response was "Ok, go stuff those envelopes" and we have been friends ever since. Later on as I was going through dialysis, I would talk to her about it and she always expressed an interest in helping, very eager to get tested. She decided to donate her kidney on her own. During this time, I told my friends and family what was happening with me in the hopes someone would be a successful match. To this day, I would say we're like siblings, we continue to keep in regular contact."
Having seen the miracle of transplant so closely, how important is organ donation and discussing one's decisions to donate to family and friends?
"For me, it is one of the most important conversations to have with someone because the impact of organ donation on my life and many other people's lives has been completely life-changing. You can imagine the change organ donation creates for the better so it is absolutely critical to have this conversation and express your wishes to your loved ones as you may save up to eight lives through your decision to register."