What was your life like before kidney donation?
As a living kidney donor, I have not faced the challenges of living with kidney disease. My own life has been extremely fortunate health wise, which I have always appreciated and I have never taken that good fortune lightly. I am thankful every day.
Why did you become a living kidney donor?
There were two people in my life who impacted my decision.
My father-in-law lived many years with chronic kidney disease as a result of a clot released during a heart procedure. At that time, the family lived in a rural area of Southern Vancouver Island and the closest dialysis treatment was at Victoria General Hospital. His journey in a shared wheelchair van three times a week took many hours (usually 8-9 hours round trip) because it was a shared shuttle with other patients going to different appointment locations. We would visit him at his dialysis treatments and after he returned home, it was evident that he was suffering, emotionally and physically. Living in the Lower Mainland meant we could visit as often as we could manage but not daily to help out. Despite all this, he kept going to his treatments and hoped to feel better but his situation didn’t improve too much. He passed away peacefully after many years of treatment when dialysis was discontinued. It is because of him that I became a donor (tearing up now as I think about him, still emotional about it even after 10 years).
Our next door neighbour was also a kidney dialysis patient and made the three times a week journey to VGH. He was the most decent and courageous man. He also suffered greatly from unfortunate surgical complications which led to even greater difficulties for his own health.
How has your quality of life been since donation?
I am in the best physical conditional on my life, only because I am a kidney donor.
I was determined to get physically fitter to maybe pass on a bit of extra good health to my recipient. As a result I have been participating in running race experiences in the US, UK, AU, and other provinces.
What is the most rewarding aspect of having donated your kidney to someone?
Simply, just the hope that I might make a difference in the quality of life of another person. No second thoughts, even though I will never know if my donation made a difference or not. I can only do my part and on a positive note, my quality of life also improved due to wanting to be a living donor.
What was your donation process like?
I had a challenging start to my process as I unexpectedly tested positive for TB during the preliminary testing. My choice then was to drop out entirely or be treated.
As a psychiatric nurse in the early 80’s, it was possible to be in contact with active TB and not be aware. In order to continue as a donor I elected to take the nine month daily antibiotic treatment and had monthly blood work at the TB Clinic to confirm I was taking the medication. This entire process was a waiting period of 20 months before I could donate, which was challenging but I kept in mind the two gentlemen who inspired me and kept going.
What does organ donation mean to you?
Being able to share my lifelong good health through kidney donation is humbly meaningful as I have been lucky to be gifted with good health, which I am thankful for daily and never take it for granted.
(Elizabeth, seven months post-operation)
Tell us about your upcoming participation in the 2023 World Transplant Games in Australia.
I am competing in the 3000m race walk, 5000m road run, 100m dash, pétanque, and maybe a throwing event. My participation is to support both donors and recipients who are at the games for healthy competition, fun mutual support between donors and recipients and to meet participants from all over the world for competition and sportsmanship.
What does volunteering mean to you, and what excites you to be part of our BC Transplant Volunteer team?
I have been a volunteer for over 50 years. So many experiences, including something I will never forget was my time as an AIDS Vancouver volunteer in the early 90’s at St. Paul’s Hospital. I’ll never forget meeting grateful individuals who received small financial gifts to help them with expenses. I am a low maintenance person and enjoy helping others however I can.
I am looking forward to meeting the volunteer team as well as connecting with anyone who has questions about organ donation and is looking for a first-hand experience.