Skip to main content

35. #50YearsofTransplant: Frank Broeders

Since the age of 15, Frank has lived with diabetes and a roller coaster of heart complications. Almost two years ago, his sister became his kidney donor, helping to restore his quality of life.
Use this image as both the current Page Image and for News listings

Can you tell us what led to you needing a transplant?

"Just before turning 15, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.  That was over 50 years ago and back then as a teenager, all I understood of the condition was that I couldn't eat sweets and I needed to give myself injections every day.  Something to look forward to each and every day!  As I grew older, I learned a lot about the disease and how to manage it.  I had a number of great endocrinologists helping me and I became aware of the impact this disease was having on my overall health, with specific areas of concern being my heart and kidneys.  My heart seemed to be impacted first, having a heart attack in 1995 and a second one in 2011.  At the same time, my endocrinologist was regularly tracking my creatinine levels and overall kidney function.  At one point, he stated that I would eventually need a kidney transplant but that he thought it was another 10 to 12 years away.  Well, that was the fastest 12 years ever!"

Tell us about the day you received news there was a kidney match for you. Can you touch on what those emotions were like?

"Well, I actually had two of those days. Once my sister had finalized her decision to be my donor, we went through almost a year of testing and assessment.  In late 2015, we were declared a match.  Both my sister and I, and especially the doctors involved, worked very hard to get the transplant done pre-emptively, so I could avoid dialysis.  The day we were approved was a wonderful day.  I felt relief, some anxiety and especially confidence, that with all my other health issues I was still approved.  A transplant date was set for late March 2016. 

As per procedure, the Friday before the Monday surgery, I had to attend a final clinic to ensure all details were in order.  I had been experiencing a lot of chest pain the week leading up to that final clinic and decided to tell the nurse.  Well, that caused all sorts of concern, including my own.  The attending transplant nephrologist spent an hour on the phone with my cardiologist with the end result being that the transplant was cancelled and an angiogram booked.  So my elation turned to uncertainty.  Within a week I had the angiogram, resulting in the need for triple bypass surgery!  I guess the cancellation was a blessing after all.  My sister, who had spent almost a year preparing for the surgery took it quite hard.  Uncertainty was the order of the day for her as well. 

So lots stood in the way before the second time finding out we were again approved.  The bypass surgery was in October of 2016, and while the surgery went well, the recovery not so much.  Largely due to water retention and poor kidney function, I was put on hemodialysis in early 2017, with the ultimate goal of still getting the transplant.  We both went through some retesting, although not too onerous.  The main focus was on my heart, and the ability of my sister to ramp up her confidence for a second go at it.  During my eight months of dialysis, the doctors kept hopes alive that we could get it done. 

Another hurdle was yet to appear however, beecause of concern for my heart. My primary transplant nephrologist sent me for an echo of my heart and the results of that test were not acceptable.  The doctor then sent me to my cardiologist for his opinion of the ability of my heart to withstand the surgery.  My cardiologist was adamant that I would be ok, and he relayed that opinion to the transplant nephrologist.  Based on that info, the transplant was approved and a second date was set.  Now I was over the moon excited, relieved again and even more confident than the first time as I knew my heart was good enough!  A date was set for Sept 2017, just less than a year after the heart surgery, and about a year and a half after the first approval."

How has your quality of life been since receiving the transplant?

"Two thoughts come to mind: freedom, and great joy.  Firstly, being off dialysis is a very freeing experience.  I actually have 12 hours a week back for regular life events.  Freedom to travel, more freedom in dietary selection, and freedom to carry on with a regular life that I control, not my failing kidneys!  It was also a very emotional time.  After almost three years of talking about it, finding a donor, countless doctor appointments, testing and finally having it done AND successful hit me hard. It took a while to fully realize where I was at now.  But I am in a wonderful place,  thanks to my sister and a number of doctors who wouldn't give up on me.  I also owe a debt of gratitude to my partner.  She was with me through all the highs and lows, always by my side, making sure I was well taken care of.  I now want to make the best of this restored quality of life, and help others by giving back."

How has your sister's quality of life been since donating?

"My sister has mentioned, it also took her some time to adjust to the new her.  She always says 'it was the only decision she could make if it saved her brother's life.'  That will forever be part of her legacy.  Her quality of life has been 'excellent' to quote her.  It has given her a renewed appreciation for life and the importance of taking good care of herself and those around her.  It also has given her a deeper insight into the miracle of the human body and what is possible to accomplish through transplant donation.  And she is so proud to have played a significant role in her brother's new quality of 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?

"It's truly difficult to find the appropriate words to express how I feel toward the exceptional women and men who played such integral roles in this journey.  I have often said the team of nurses, medical specialists, aides, support workers and others, is second to none, and I will always hold them close.  I will be forever grateful to all the doctors, and of course the surgeons who took such great care of me and my sister and my family.  I cannot say enough about them.  Specifically, the transplant nephrologist and my cardiologist who collaborated so professionally, to advocate for me, to fight for me and to mitigate the risks still present, to ensure this got done.  I will always owe them a debt of eternal gratitude.  For the success of transplant in BC, there have been countless individuals who have played key roles over the last 50 years, saving countless lives and significantly impacting the lives of loved ones and families." 

What's your perspective on the milestone of 50 years of donation and transplant in BC?

"50 years is a momentous milestone in many facets of life and they are to be celebrated.  For such a milestone to be reached by an organization that is solely focused on saving lives, truly deserves much recognition and celebration.  It prepares us for the next 50 years, and all British Columbians owe a debt of gratitude to the many men and women who have made this milestone a reality.  People don't know what the future holds for them, but should they ever need a life-saving transplant, it's gratifying to know BC Transplant is there."

50in50; BC Transplant
SOURCE: 35. #50YearsofTransplant: Frank Broeders ( )
Page printed: . Unofficial document if printed. Please refer to SOURCE for latest information.

Copyright © BC Transplant. All Rights Reserved.

    Copyright © 2024 Provincial Health Services Authority