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2. #50YearsofTransplant: David Folstad

The story of 50 years of donation and transplant in BC is the sum of thousands of stories of transplant recipients. For these recipients, an organ transplant means hope, a future, and new life.
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​David Folstad of Penticton is one among many residents of BC who has had a second chance at life through kidney transplant. After an unsuccessful first transplant, he had a second successful kidney transplant lasting 31 years. David now awaits a third kidney.

What was your life like before needing to undergo transplant and how did it change after your first transplant?

Shortly after graduating high school, I was diagnosed with Alport Syndrome. With the rapid decline of my kidney function as a symptom of the disease, I received my first kidney transplant in 1986. Unfortunately, the transplant was not successful and functioned for just one month. This wasn't an easy journey— having to do dialysis four times a day, 365 days a year, was a constant reminder that I was sick and had a lot of limitations. All I dreamt about was being able to travel, eat, and drink normally. And on hemodialysis, I had to be away from my family three times a week.

What was the day like when you received news that there was a second kidney match for you? Can you touch on what those emotions were like?

My second transplant was in July 1987. I came home from work and there was a message on the phone that there was a match, which was really exciting. I was a little nervous as well—I spent five months in hospital in 1986, and three of the people in my room besides myself had all died. So there was some uncertainty regarding this second transplant. Was I going to spend five months in the hospital again? Psychologically, that was very hard to come to terms with; I was ready to receive a transplant but I wasn't ready to stay in the hospital for that long again.

After agreeing to the transplant at VGH, I underwent surgery, but when I woke up the next morning, the kidney showed only limited functioning. The team worked really quickly to make sure they could do all that was necessary for my body to accept the transplant. After eight days, I was told that I would be scheduled for a surgery the following morning, should the transplant continue to not function. My wife came into my room that night and we prayed together, and to our good luck, my transplant started working outstandingly well that night.

It opened up the doors to us having a real enjoyable family life. A year after my transplant was still working well, we had another child, and we had hope for a future; which would never have existed if not for my transplant in 1987. 

Having received a successful transplant, what are some things that you will always cherish and be grateful for?

After my transplant, my future seemed unlimited! I travelled to Turkey, Sweden, London, and Rome with my family. I didn't miss out on any of my kid's school events. I was able to come home after work, and play sports with them, and teach them how to ride bikes. I didn't think about myself as being sick anymore, but rather, just like anyone else. I didn't have diet restrictions, although I was prescribed medication, which was the polar opposite of being on dialysis. It bought hope and joy to my family, who were used to seeing me sick and in hospital for a long period of time. I did a three-day bike ride from Penticton to Princeton and camped outside the entire trip. I was just living life with freedom, and I think that's what transplant means to me… Transplant means freedom. Transplant means future.

What is your perspective on the past 50 years of donation and transplant in BC?

I think BC Transplant has developed new knowledge and technology in the last 50 years. Some of them have been tough lessons to learn, but they have always had a vision to help patients to live a better life, and give families a better future.

A lot of that has been because of the people that work in transplant: from nurses, doctors, surgeons, other clinicians, to the various people who play different supporting roles. I think we are sitting on a foundation from the first fifty years, so that the next 50 years will really see even bigger advances, faster growth, more success, longer lives, hopefully shorter waiting lists, and maybe even the elimination of waiting lists in as little as 10 years.  

What would you like to say to the various individuals that have supported the field of transplant and donation over the course of this 50 year journey?

I'll never forget this one nurse named Grace, who really showed heartfelt support for me and my family. All the nurses matched our emotions of hope, excitement, and happiness, and if the transplant didn't turn out successful, they showed encouragement, which meant so much to me and my wife. These are people that understand they're not working with machines, and they approach their work with a level of care, heart, and sensitivity that I found truly comforting as a young man, going through an unexpected and emotional phase in my life. Everyone involved in the transplant and renal team assisted me with a lot of passion and to the best of their abilities. I can't speak highly enough of them.

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