What compelled you to get tested to see if you could become a living donor?
"I met my friend Hayley in our university days and had developed a friendship with her due to our mutual love (and competitiveness) for board games. She sent out an email to friends and family in early 2012, letting us know that her third kidney was failing. She had already had one kidney transplant six years prior, from her mom. In her email she asked for prayers, but also put it out there that she was looking for another donor. As soon as I read the email, my immediate response in my mind was "no problem, I can do that." It seemed like such an obvious and easy decision! Why not?"
What misconceptions do you believe people have in regard to organ donation?
"One misconception I had was that you actually have to be a match in order to be a donor and get your loved one a new organ. Yes, obviously the match needs to be right for organ donation to take place, but I think a lot of people have no idea about the living donor exchange program and how it works. I hadn't heard of it until we started going through the process. It makes it so that even if I'm not a match for my loved one, I can donate my kidney to your loved one, and you donate to mine, and then BOTH our loved ones get the organ they need! You just have to be willing to donate. Match or not. It's amazing. Simple.
The other main misconception is simply about your own health after donation - it really has no negative impact!
Oh, and a third misconception, for me anyway, was that they don't actually remove the failed kidneys from the recipient! So Hayley now has FOUR kidneys!"
What was the day like when you found out you were a match for Hayley?
"This is connected to the question about misconceptions - I knew I didn't necessarily have to be a perfect match, it was more about just going through the process of tests to make sure that I was healthy enough to donate. They were very thorough in checking my health and making sure I was physically able to donate. There was also a lot of support in making sure I understood the whole process, and the Kidney Foundation has a great program in supporting donors to cover different financial costs (doctor visits, travel costs, missed work etc.) The transplant team were also flexible in working with my timing, to ensure the procedure and my recovery could take place when it was best suited both Hayley and I. And so on December 19th, we did our thing and I spent my 30th birthday at St Paul's. The biggest tragedy was that my appetite was so poor post-surgery that I couldn't enjoy my birthday ice cream cake."
Are there any changes in your quality of life since the donation procedure?
"I think I'm healthier and in better shape now than I ever was before my donation! I hike, bike, run and visit the mountains as often as possible! One kidney does me just fine!"
How has Hayley's quality of life been since transplant?
"In her words, "my quality of life has been great!". Hayley and her husband Bill have two daughters, so I imagine that not having to spend as much time sick or on dialysis is quite a positive thing for family life!"
What is the most rewarding part of being a living kidney donor?
"Besides having a cabin on Hornby I can stay at because Hayley's family are so grateful? Hehe, just kidding! It's amazing knowing that for such little effort on my part, and really just giving up a few weeks of my time, I can add many years of health and freedom from dialysis to the life of someone else."
What's your perspective on the milestone of 50 years of donation and transplant in BC?
"As my Romanian friends would say 'La multi ani' - to many more years! In life, we have more than we need and the world would be a much better place if we could learn to live with less, and to be generous with the extra we do have... that's what being a living donor is all about! We have organs we don't need, but someone else REALLY does need - so be generous and let them have it!"