Rob Hammerschmidt has received the gift of life not once, but twice. Rob received a living kidney transplant from his father in 2009, which gave Rob almost a decade of health and adventure. In 2018, his kidney started to fail, and Rob was added to the deceased donor waitlist. In 2021, he got the call that all transplant recipients hope for, and received a second kidney transplant.
Can you share a bit about what made you need this second transplant?
After my first transplant in 2009, I was living my life; I was travelling the world and I married my beautiful wife. Unfortunately in 2018, my transplanted kidney began to reject. Despite all of the efforts of the doctors to save the kidney, it eventually failed. I began dialysis in 2020 and I was so extremely sick that it made it difficult for me to even walk from the car to the hospital.
I was lucky enough to be placed on waitlist within the Canada-wide Highly Sensitized Patient (HSP) Program. This list is reserved for people whose antibodies are so high that their chances of finding a match are very very low. My antibodies gave me the chance of matching only 1.7 per cent of the population.
Tell us about the day you received the call that a donor kidney was available.
My wife and I had just sat down to eat dinner. My phone rang and it said Vancouver General Hospital. I thought that was odd, being a Sunday night. I thought that maybe they had to move my dialysis appointment the next morning to a different time.
The doctor on the other end of the phone said simply, "Rob, we have found you a match."
I still get goosebumps thinking about that moment. I am sure that I looked like I had seen a ghost and mouthed to my wife, "They found me a kidney." The flurry of calls and messages to friends and family was such a great thing and a sense of relief that I cannot explain.
Rob and his wife in hospital
What are your plans now that you have received this second transplant?
Once COVID calms down and it is safe to travel again, I have plans to go back to Asia and visit friends and family in Australia. Fingers crossed that happens very soon.
How did COVID affect your experience?
COVID was something that I had been extremely anxious and scared of since it began. I was still having to go into the hospital for dialysis three times a week, so it made it impossible to totally isolate from the world. I do have a supportive group of friends and family that dropped off groceries during the pandemic, so that we could avoid the store. Right after my transplant, because of COVID, I was only allowed one visitor per day. That meant that I did a lot of Facetiming with my friends and family to reassure them that I was doing well.
What are your thoughts for your organ donor and family?
I still cannot put into words my gratitude to my donor and their family. I often wonder if my donor's family truly understands how thankful and grateful I am to them for supporting the decision of their loved one, my donor. While my family and I were filled with happiness and relief, my donor's family was going through one of the most difficult and saddest days in their lives.
It is a very emotional thing that I think about often and I am going to do everything that I can to live my life to the fullest and enjoy every minute of life that my donor has given me. I owe it to them and to their family.
Any thoughts for the health care team who provided care to you?
I am so extremely thankful to all of my doctors, nurses and the entire health care team that cared for me, before and after my transplant, and everybody that made my transplant possible. Especially during COVID, these groups of dedicated people truly changed my life and change the lives of others every day.