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42. #50YearsofTransplant: Vicki Ellestad

Vicki was shocked when the doctor called and told her she was in kidney failure. Fast forward a few years and to her surprise, her brother-in-law Mark called to share good news that he was going to fly in from Alberta to be her kidney donor.
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Can you tell us what led to you needing a transplant?

"I was healthy all my life, therefore I was shocked when the doctor called and told me that I was in kidney failure. I was later told that a virus had attacked my kidneys. It was hard to wrap my mind around that new information. For the longest time, I truly thought that they had made a mistake and that I was going to be told that I was ok."

Can you describe the day you found out there was a kidney match for you?

"My family's blood type was not a match for me so I joined the paired exchange program with the hope that one day a kidney transplant would become a reality.  Moving forward a few years, my daughter Amanda was home visiting and I told her that I felt I had a donor coming forward. She asked who I thought it was and I replied "I don't know… I don't know anyone who has tested for me, but I have this feeling.  

The very next morning, I received a phone call from my brother-in-law Mark who I hadn't seen for nine years.  We talked for a while and he told to me that he had himself tested and was given the ok to come out from Alberta to donate a kidney to me. The only thing we had to do was the tissue test to see if we were compatible.  I felt numb and started to cry. My brain was not absorbing what he was saying to me.  "Thank you" is so commonly used that I don't feel it's powerful and grateful enough when thinking about how Mark literally saved my life.  My transplant was six years ago and to this day, I'm still overwhelmed and emotional as if all this happened yesterday."

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

"My life is wonderful now.  I went from being very ill and unable to do too much for about eight years, to being able to take my granddaughter Livia to Disneyland - a promise I made to her since she was born.  I have traveled, attended family reunions and have enjoyed time with my family. I volunteer for BC Transplant and for Livia's school too.

My family has been able to move on with their lives too. I can't forget that my illness impacted all of them and they're the ones who were there to help me through it all - thank you Amanda and Frank.   My illness impacted my friends who were also there to help and gave me a shoulder to cry on - thank you Janet, Linda, Nancy and so many more. Life is truly amazing!"

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

"Mark is healthy and very active and is enjoying his family and grandchildren. A week after transplant he was back in Alberta jogging. He did receive a phone call from the nurse in Vancouver telling him that he should hold back from jogging for a little while. We've reunited a few times in the last six years and we email each other on the 12th of every month because the transplant was on July 12th."

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?

"To the medical teams, I would like to say a big "Thank You!" for choosing this profession. You are amazing humans and I have so much respect for every single one of you. You always made me feel safe and that I was going to be healthy again."

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

"50 years of miracles, so many lives have been saved because of organ donation. Thank you to the donors and their families, as you are angels and we are FOREVER GRATEFUL to you. We cherish your gift which for us is truly the gift of life."

50in50; BC Transplant
SOURCE: 42. #50YearsofTransplant: Vicki Ellestad ( )
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