My name is Arlene, and I received a living donor kidney transplant on July 27, 2016.
I'm also First Nations Heiltsuk Band Member living in Bella Bella,
B.C. Without this transplant I would have had to move to Vancouver for an extended stay to be on dialysis and/or learn how to administer the dialysis here in Bella Bella, B.C. I was diagnosed with diabetes with high blood pressure in the mid 1980's; while computer literate, and a competent learner, I ignored the signs as I thought I was invincible.
Over this time, I continued my lifestyle of not eating properly, not exercising as I should have and in general not taking care of myself. Why did I do this? I was a young woman, wife, mother and full time worker and was in total denial. Finally, on Sept 25, 2014 my doctor insisted I listen and do what is right for me. By this time, my kidney function had gone to 10%, I was very sick and the official diagnosis was Chronic End Stage Kidney Disease. I finally realized that I was not a superwoman and now my back was to the wall.
I was very scared, and in fact PETRIFED. It was then I made the decision to leave my employment—a huge transition and a loss of way of life, and what I thought was the life I was happy with. The next day, I went into the office advised my employers that I had to take time off and deal with my health problems.
As the months unfolded and in discussion with the ongoing Kidney Clinics at St. Pauls, it was brought to my attention that it would be much better if I were to seek a living donor. This was very hard for me to consider as I am a very private person (as most of us are) and to put myself out there in the public domain took everything I had to do this.
With the support and help of my oldest son, we set up a Facebook Group Page and put my story out there, what was happening and why I needed a living donor for a kidney. My family, friends and extended community were incredible supportive. I was so very blessed to have a second cousin come forward and let me know she was undergoing the testing to see if she was a match. It turned, she was!
Now, where am I? In the healing stage, however, each day is different than the day before. I am totally blessed, grateful and humble to have received this gift of life. Without this I would not be sharing my story. I need to keep my new kidney working as well it can.
This is not the end for me as I have so much to be thankful and one of my commitments is to tell my story especially in my community and other aboriginal communities. We don't often talk about organ donation, however, I am now the 3rd one to have received a kidney (the other two were from deceased donors) and it's clear organ donation is something we need to learn more about.
I feel I have a responsibility to share and to get my concerns out there within the aboriginal communities, as I know I will not be last to need a lifesaving organ donation.