Everyone else made sure to pack their microwave when they travelled, right?
As a child, I never thought anything was out of the ordinary. All I knew was my parents felt that using 7-Eleven microwaves were way too unpredictable for comfort. So whenever we headed out on the road, my dad made sure to lug the “nuker,” as he called it, along for the ride.
When it came time, we’d stop our activity, find an outlet whether it was in a building or out back in an alley, and warm up my mom’s dialysis bags. She’d then hook the pouch onto the handle hanging from the ceiling, undergo her treatment, and then we’d continue on our way.
I don’t remember when her kidney failed, but I had to have been about four or five. The only thing I do recall is receiving a book from the hospital with a smiling cartoon kidney that promised to explain everything about the disease.
I knew my mom had to take several times out of her day to sit and let this magical liquid drain into her. And several times a year, the “Baxter man” would come to our house and drop off huge boxes of the stuff. But I was never under the impression that there was anything different about her life or that my mom’s health was in any kind of danger.
Even with kidney disease, she would still take me to play in the park and be my mother. I remember the two of us going swimming and having to wait for her to carefully wrap the catheter that hung from her belly in protective plastic; as a kid, that seemed to be the only inconvenience really.
I think she successfully attempted to show grace and resilience every place she went; she was an optimist who never once had a negative thing to say.
Today, I work as a journalist and author, penning community-themed articles and trying to do my part to help with transplant awareness. I’ll be helping to contribute and write stories for BC Transplant, which will aim to highlight success stories and courageous moments like my mother faced.
I lost my mom to cancer just after Christmas of 2009. There have been many difficult days since she passed, but lately, moments of appreciation have led me here and taken the place of grief.
In the summer of 2000, my seven-year-old self answered the phone while we were eating dinner - it turned out to be a doctor who said they had found a kidney for my Mom and could perform the transplant immediately.
We raced to the hospital, where she immediately received her new organ. My mom had to spend the next few months in recovery, something I didn’t mind at all. She sent me postcards in the mail and would let me eat her hospital food, which I had deemed to be delicious. Despite everything, she found the strength to keep her son smiling.
Naturally, I got curious and asked her where in the world the new kidney had come from. My mom didn’t go into much detail, explaining only that we would never know who it was. She said they were someone who just wanted to help and referred to him as “a very nice man.”
Because of that person, I got to have an extra decade with my mom. There’s no telling how long she would have lived on dialysis and what her quality of life would have been. Because of “the very nice man,” there were no more trips where we had to pack the microwave or wait to dive into the ocean so my mom could wrap up her tubes.
She got to travel where she wanted and eat what she wanted and have fun with her family – all because of an organ donation that gave her the gift of more time.
While I’ll never get to say thank you, I am happy to be volunteering with BC Transplant and one day do the same for another family.
Written by: Ryan Uytdewilligen, BC Transplant Volunteer