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28. #50YearsofTransplant: Fiona Walker

Fiona received not one, but two lifesaving transplants at the same time; “a bright and shiny new kidney and an insulin producing pancreas”. She is forever grateful to her donor and her transplant team. 
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What was the day like when you received the call that there was a match for you?

"In July of 2011, a phone call changed my life. After a rough day at the dialysis clinic, I shuffled around my dimly lit bedroom gripping the phone, mustering the strength to speak to the voice on the other end. I glanced at the screen flashing BC Transplant, and I casually answered thinking they were checking in to see how I was feeling. What happened next will be a moment forever frozen in time: after five and a half years of waiting, the words "we have a transplant for you" were upon me. You prepare yourself for the phone call, the surgery, the image of what receiving the gift of life might be, but what happens from that moment on is both crucial and unexpected."

Can you describe what the emotional journey was like?

"As the reality set in, I sat on my bed staring blankly at myself in the mirror and with calm and steady emotions letting myself take in the moment. I was about to receive not one but two miracles, a bright and shiny new kidney and an insulin producing pancreas. I remember getting off the plane a few short hours later, wondering if I could walk myself to the taxi as I stubbornly refused help. When you're sick, even the smallest triumph can feel like a victory and at the end of that terminal, my new life was waiting."

Do you think about your donor, and donor family often?

"Back in my dimly lit bedroom as I hung up the phone, I immediately began to wonder about my donor, a sentiment that still haunts me daily. The phone call that changed my life also meant someone had just lost theirs. I wondered how they passed, who they were, what they were like, had they made the decision to be a donor or was it the choice of the family, and did that family wonder about me."

Having seen the miracle of transplant so closely, how important is to register one's decision on organ donation?

"I support organ donation and regardless of your choice to donate or not donate, the simple step of registering your wishes matters. I am now healthy, happy and about to celebrate eight years of double transplant success. No one can predict the future and there will always be someone somewhere waiting for their phone call, a family grieving the loss of a loved one, but I truly believe how you react to each situation is what matters."

What would you like to say to the medical teams that are so vital to the success of organ donation and transplant in BC?

"When I woke up in recovery I remember the faces around me, huddled over with looks of concern and hope, and for the next few days everything felt like a dream. The solidarity shown by all the surgeons, staff and supporters included in the different aspects of organ transplantation are a tell-tale sign: transplant is a team effort."

Anything else you'd like to share on your transplant journey?

"An illness does not define a person, though it may dictate how he or she lives life: the patient is still a person. My kidneys began to fail when I was 15, and what was perceived to be a burden in the beginning, ended up as a blessing in the end. It provided me with not only an unwavering confidence in myself, but hope of making a difference in the world: for myself, for the transplant team and for my donor."

50in50; BC Transplant
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