Tag Archives: Canadian Blood Services

A somewhat oddly timed thanksgiving

Two months ago, in September, Gerald Neufeld donated a kidney to a person in need in British Columbia, closing the loop on the Paired Kidney Donation program that we had entered into, he as a donor and me as a recipient. This is the first time I have mentioned Gerald’s name in any of my blog posts. The transplant coordinators generally want to keep these matters confidential for the first several weeks following the actual transplant. Sadly, sometimes if direct donors and recipients find out about each other, the altruistic nature of the donation can become a bit weird. But, enough time has passed that I have been released from this constraint.

Gerald Neufeld, my donor in the Paired Kidney Donation program.

Gerald Neufeld, my donor in the Paired Kidney Donation program.

Rie Neufeld, Gerald's wife and among many other things, caregiver following Gerald's kidney donation surgery.

Rie Neufeld, Gerald’s wife and among many other things, caregiver following Gerald’s kidney donation surgery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before I go on, I want to mention once again another person in British Columbia, someone I had known for many years, who had also volunteered as a donor for the paired exchange program. Ultimately, I only need one kidney to thrive and therefore only one donor, and so this other friend did not become a donor. Nevertheless, I wish to thank him for his willingness, along with his wife for her support. The encouragement I received, the depth of emotion I felt whenever I spoke with him as he accompanied me on this journey across thousands of kilometres, will remain in my heart forever.

Back to Gerald. Gerald’s connections with me and Etsuko are perhaps not quite as old, but they are every bit as significant in a different way. We shared some years together as former missionaries in Japan. As with me and Etsuko, Gerald also met his wife Rie on the other side of the Pacific. And although we didn’t have a whole lot to do with each other at the time, several years earlier we even spent a year together as fellow students at Canadian Mennonite Bible College (now Canadian Mennonite University) in Winnipeg. Who would have thought that so many years later (we returned from living in Japan a final time in 2000) we would establish a new life-transforming connection like we have experienced in 2016.

In the caption below Rie’s picture, I mentioned that Rie was Gerald’s caregiver following his surgery. Although Gerald was discharged from the hospital in a timely manner, recovery is something that still takes a number of weeks before a return to work is possible. For that reason, Gerald received support from his employers, Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, BC, where he is music coordinator, and the Mennonite Japanese Christian Fellowship in Surrey, BC, where he serves as pastor.

Thank you, Gerald and Rie, thanks to your three children, and thank you to your church communities for all that you have done, not just for me, but also for raising awareness of the need for organ donation.

I will add a small note about my situation these days. Recovery from the blood clot in my right leg continues but I hope to have that fully resolved by December. Last week I went to the kidney clinic as I have been doing every two weeks for quite some time. After reviewing the results of my blood test, the nephrologist I saw that day pronounced me fit and said that he wanted to see me next in two months! And then he told me that he would have suggested three months except that he was concerned it would “freak (me) out.” It almost did. Wow. By then it will be just short of the six month anniversary since my transplant.

I really am making progress. This past Friday, Etsuko and I went to Sarnia (about an hour west of London, ON) for an overnight stay at a hotel and a very pleasant walk along the waterfront. Friday was apparently the last nice day before winter began to settle in, but one of the main reasons we went away on this little trip was because we had to burn up some Air Miles before they expired at the end of this year (yes, we are among the many Canadians forced to use our points whether we want to or not). It turned out to be a great day, and it was my first time away from home in two years without having to haul along a bunch of equipment and supplies for dialysis. What a sense of liberation that was.

So, lots of reasons to be thankful! But today I want to say I am mostly grateful for people like Gerald, people willing to be living donors, as well as those who support them. Not everyone is willing to be a living donor, or even if willing, able to take such a step because of health limitations, but today you can register as an organ and tissue donor following your death. Here is the URL that provides links to all of the provincial and territorial donor registration sites: Canadian Transplant Society. Please register and make a difference. Thank you.

 

London Kidney Walk 2016

This weekend, Sunday, September 25, I will be walking in the London edition of the Kidney Walk, a fundraiser for the Kidney Foundation of Canada. Last year was the first time I participated in the Walk. In fact, I hadn’t been aware of it previously, despite 30+ years of living with kidney disease. This weekend, Friday, September 23, to be precise, will also mark eight weeks since I received my transplant.

And, as long as I am marking significant events, this past Monday, my friend Gerald donated one of his kidneys as part of the Paired Kidney Donation program run by Canadian Blood Services. His donation, although after my own surgery, made it possible for me to receive a new kidney. I had the pleasure of phoning him and his wife yesterday, Tuesday, the day after his surgery, and he sounded just fine! Praise God for his tremendous gift. I wouldn’t be where I am now without his generosity.

I’ve made a lot of progress in the last nearly eight weeks, but I still have a ways to go. I get tired very quickly, and a little bit of exertion brings out the sweat in buckets. On the positive side, walking is not that difficult. I’ve already walked more than half an hour at a time on several occasions, so I don’t anticipate any problems with the Kidney Walk. Again, I’ve made progress. Take a look at my vigorous steps two days after my surgery (video courtesy of my long-suffering wife, Etsuko):

With respect to the Kidney Walk, if you are interested in sponsoring me, there is still time to do so online here: Welcome to Russell Sawatsky’s page.

Thanks so much to all those who have already been so generous either with donations or with words of encouragement. They have meant a great deal to me and my family.

#Video – CBC Go Public: Organ exchange program slow to deliver on promise to man in need of a kidney, family says

I’m reposting this from CBC’s Go Public segment. Go Public is generally a program that attempts to go to bat for a customer who has been wronged by a company. In this case, we have a situation where the mother-in-law of a kidney disease patient donated a kidney as part of the Living Donor Paired Exchange program, but her son-in-law was unable to receive a kidney at the same time due to illness. Even though he has since recovered, he is still waiting for a kidney.

This is a timely story, just appearing today, Thanksgiving Monday, October 12. This month I am once again a potential beneficiary of the Living Donor Paired Exchange program. Sometime within the next couple of weeks I expect to hear whether a match has been found, and if so, then I too could be the recipient of a donated kidney from a living donor.

GO PUBLIC

Organ exchange program slow to deliver on promise to man in need of a kidney, family says

A national program that matches living kidney donors with recipients hasn’t delivered on a promise after a woman donated a kidney to a stranger so her ailing son-in-law could get a much-needed transplant, the family says.

CBC News investigates  

Estella Jamieson agreed to donate one of her kidneys, only after being assured her son-in-law would soon get a transplant. She says she decided to contact Go Public because he is still waiting.

“I know I helped somebody and I’m glad that family is going good, but I just feel if I would have waited I could have helped my own family more,” a teary Jamieson says.

Jamieson and her son-in-law, Jeff Pike, signed up for the Living Kidney Donor Paired Exchange Program a couple of years ago. It’s run by Canadian Blood Services along with provincial transplant programs.

The program matches people in need of a kidney with a stranger of the same blood type willing to donate. But, in order to get a kidney, the recipient needs a partner willing to donate a kidney to someone else as part of what’s called a donor chain.

Click here to continue reading

New national kidney donor program helps hard-to-match patients

I’m reposting this article by Helen Branswell of the Canadian Press (via cbc.ca).

New national kidney donor program helps hard-to-match patients

New program aims to help hard-to-match kidney transplant patients find organ

By Helen Branswell, The Canadian Press Posted: May 22, 2015 10:13 AM CT

A new program is helping match Canadians in need of kidney donations with donors across the country. (IStock)

A new program is helping match Canadians in need of kidney donations with donors across the country. (IStock)

A new national program has been set up to help hard-to-match people waiting for kidney transplants to get the organs they need.

The program is designed to assist people who are “highly sensitized,” meaning they already have high levels of antibodies to foreign tissues.

These patients are very likely to reject donor kidneys unless there is a close match between them and the donor tissue, but making that match has proved to be a tough thing to do.

Highly sensitized patients make up about 20 per cent of the people waiting for kidney transplants, but historically they have received less than one per cent of the kidneys transplanted in this country.

The new program, operated by Canadian Blood Services, has created a national system for highly sensitized patients.

Organs can come from any part of Canada

In the past, these people would need to wait for well-matched kidney from within their own province; now they will be eligible to get donor organs from any part of the country, if the organ is a good match.

To read more click here.