Tag Archives: dialysis

I was a stranger and you gave me water… and a kidney!

Andy Clutton donated a kidney to Ghulam Akbar Momand after they became friends and neighbours living in a Rebecca Street highrise. – Barry Gray,The Hamilton Spectator

The following article was first published in The Hamilton Spectator and also published in The Star.

He was a stranger next door. Then he gave him a kidney

Their story began with a knock at the door and a gift of bottled water.

It has become about so much more — a 65-year-old Afghan man and a 29-year-old Canadian man sharing meals, religion, culture, respect and now, almost unbelievably, a kidney.

On an August day in 2012, Ghulam Akbar Momand and 18 of his family members moved into a Rebecca Street highrise, only to find their three units without water or electricity due to a building emergency.

It was not an ideal welcome to Canada for the Afghan family, who recently arrived in Hamilton via Pakistan.

That same day, neighbour Andy Clutton made his way through the 16-storey building along with a group of other residents, distributing water bottles to help those who couldn’t make it out of their units.

Going door-to-door, Clutton met Momand — who he calls “Dr. Akbar” — along with the rest of his family living in the building, which included nine children.

It was the start of a beautiful friendship between the two men born more than three decades apart in different countries with different skin colours.

“From that day, we make our friendship,” Momand said about Clutton. “A friend who gives … half of life to you — I find this friend.”

The story of how the two men went from “friends to donors” grew out of their shared medical experience, explains Clutton, who is recovering well after donating one of his kidneys to Momand three weeks ago.

Momand, who was chief and served as doctor in his village of Mangwal, Afghanistan, would routinely perform procedures like circumcisions and pull teeth.

Clutton, a father of three, works as a palliative-care nurse in Grimsby.

“Even though (Momand’s) English was very poor then, there were many terms in Latin through medical terminology that we could tell stories about, laugh about and learn from each other on,” Clutton said.

Clutton’s shift work also meant the two could have tea often. Through these meetings, Clutton learned of Momand’s medical conditions, including slowly deteriorating kidneys that led to him being on dialysis for more than three years.

In 2015, the father of 10 had a heart operation. The stress of the surgery caused his kidney function to rapidly decrease.

As Momand’s health continued to decline, the family looked into whether one of his children could be a living kidney donor, but none were eligible because both Momand and his wife have diabetes, said Clutton.

So, the family approached Clutton and another friend in the building, Varun Rana, for help explaining their situation to other Canadians.

Not knowing what being a kidney donor involved, Rana and Clutton began exploring basic questions, such as eligibility and the length of the process.

“Initially, just to find out the facts, but kind of setting our hearts to walking through this door until the door was closed,” Clutton said.

Several years ago, Clutton, his wife Shannon and a group of their friends — including Rana and his wife Amelia — moved into the Beasley neighbourhood purposefully to serve immigrants and refugees.

“Varun and I were part of a team that would try to use our spare time to help the neighbourhood,” he said.

They are part of a small movement called MoveIn, in which Christians move into low-income, high-density communities with large newcomer populations to follow Jesus’ example.

“We’ve always explained ourselves in this neighbourhood as trying to imitate the life of Jesus in service to others,” said Clutton, who grew up in the Philippines and went to high school in Toronto.

Click here to read more…

Andy Clutton, right, says he donated a kidney to Ghulam Akbar Momand due to a “spiritual conviction” to live life like Jesus. – Photo courtesy of Andy Clutton

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The Kidney Walk is done for another year. Thank you.

It was a beautiful blue-sky kind of Sunday for this year’s edition of the Kidney Foundation‘s annual Kidney Walk in London, Ontario. As fundraisers go, it was quite a success, raising in excess of $38,000 for the Foundation. On an individual level, you, my sponsors, combined to put my walk first among individual fundraisers, raising $2,360. Thank you very much for your support for me and for this cause.

I am not a selfie pro. I cannot take a picture of myself and smile at the same time! The green shirt indicates a “champion,” with over $1000 raised.

Not everyone with kidney disease (or a transplant) is an old geezer like me. Among the folks I saw today was a family who were walking on behalf of their little son, who appeared to be all of 4 years old. Kidney Disease is a generic term because it can arise from a variety of causes and at a variety of ages. One young man of 34 spoke of his disease as having been genetic, inherited. The disease I was diagnosed with at 25 has its own distinct story. Whether known or unknown, I am grateful for the support of people like you, which helps advance patient care and medical research. Thank you.

Russ Sawatsky

Two Steps Forward + A Few More

Earlier this week I visited my family doctor for a regular check up on my diabetes condition. Readers of this blog may recall that I was diagnosed with diabetes following my transplant, a not uncommon consequence for those who receive a kidney transplant after age 45.

A common measure for one’s diabetic status is the A1C test. A number of 6.5 or greater is diabetic. My numbers during the last several months have been around 6.9 – 7.1. Happily, though, my most recent number was 6.4! Woo hoo! That means I have dipped into the “pre-diabetic” range.

Another step forward has also come from another blood test that showed that my creatinine level has fallen back into the low 90s. Although previous levels were in the range of 100-110, within normal range, having it drop several points a year after my transplant is really good news.

 

The “few more” steps refers to the Kidney Walk (click on this link if you’d like to donate), which I will be going on tomorrow (Sunday, September 24) morning. (If you live in London, Ontario, you may want to consider coming out to Gibbons Park at 10:00 AM.) Two years ago, when I first went on the walk, I was in the middle of dialysis. Last year, I was at less than two months post-transplant. This year I’m a full year beyond my transplant and feel like I have actually re-entered a normal lifestyle complete with a degree of health and energy that I haven’t experienced in years.

In gratitude,

Russ Sawatsky

Transplant One Year Anniversary

One year ago, on Friday, July 29, 2016, I received a life altering kidney transplant from a living donor. Once again, I write in humble gratitude for the willingness of two friends in British Columbia to put their names forward as donors, with Gerald Neufeld being the one who finally was the one to “go under the knife.” I think as well of the tremendous care I received while in hospital, and of the loving support of my wife Etsuko, and my four children, Rika, Keila, Aisha and Aaron, who were with me during that day. There were also friends from church as well as friends from our neighbourhood who visited with me and my family before, during and/or after the surgery.

A lot has happened in the last year, much of it documented in this blog (“shout out” to Robert Chute — check out some of his books on Amazon — for helping me to get this little publishing venture off the ground). I seem to have become a “normal” person again: working 9 to 5 at the same place I had been before I went on dialysis — and that’s all right. In fact, I feel more “normal” than I have in 33 years when I was first diagnosed with kidney disease: no high blood pressure, no excess swelling or carrying around extra weight because my kidneys were not able to do the job, no tube coming out of my belly (I’ll avoid attaching the graphic photos for now) nor the related hooking up to a dialysis machine every night. I could go on. 

Thank you for your support, and thank you to every person who has registered as an organ donor.

I’ll post something again as the day gets closer and as I get my donation page a little more up-to date, but allow me to wrap this up by mentioning that I will once again be participating in the Kidney Walk in London, a fundraising event for the Kidney Foundation of Canada.

A recent photo of me wearing my Kidney Walk t-shirt from 2016.

Wife of La Ronge man killed in robbery brought to tears by organ donation letter

Those in need of an organ transplant recognize that their well-being is often, almost always, the consequence of a tragedy. This article from CTV News Saskatoon illustrates that situation.

Wife of La Ronge man killed in robbery brought to tears by organ donation letter

The wife of a man who was killed during an armed robbery in La Ronge said she’s “just amazed” with how his donated organs are helping others.

Simon Grant’s organs were donated after his death in April. His wife, Cora Laich, received a letter from The Saskatchewan Transplant Program earlier this month that says how his donation is benefiting others.

Laich said the letter brought tears to her eyes.

“It was almost unbelievable to think … Simon’s organs were in other people’s bodies and that they were living on in their bodies,” Laich told CTV Saskatoon.

The letter said Grant’s lungs, liver and kidneys had all been transplanted successfully. The person who received his lungs is doing well and “in awe of the gift,” according to the letter.

His liver was transplanted successfully and two different people are off dialysis and doing well, thanks to his kidneys being donated.

Click here to continue reading.

Infographics about Kidney Disease and Organ Donation

Here are a couple of recently published “infographics” that contain some stark information about kidney disease and organ donation, courtesy of the Kidney Foundation of Canada. Given the increasing prevalence of organ failure in general and kidney disease in particular, it’s quite likely that this is more than mere statistics. Beyond myself, you may very well know someone else among your friends and extended family who is dealing with a disease that may ultimately lead to life-threatening organ failure.

Thanks for your support,

Russ Sawatsky

A kidney for a guitar

Yesterday, February 27, I posted a message from Gerald Neufeld. As it turns out, the Canadian Mennonite magazine recently published an article about Gerald and me, written by Amy Dueckman.

A kidney for a guitar

‘Small steps of faith’ lead to organ donation

By Amy Dueckman, B.C. Correspondent
Abbotsford, B.C. | Feb 22, 2017 | Volume 21 Issue 5

geraldneufeld

Gerald Neufeld prepares to donate one of his kidneys in the Paired Kidney Exchange Program last year. (Photo courtesy of Gerald Neufeld)

Gerald Neufeld of B.C. and Russ Sawatsky of Ontario have several things in common: they both served as missionaries in Japan, where they met their wives; and they both attended Canadian Mennonite Bible College in Winnipeg at the same time. But the donation of a kidney for one and the receiving of a kidney for the other gives the two a life-transforming connection like no other.

Neufeld, pastor of Mennonite Japanese Christian Fellowship in Surrey, also serves part-time as music coordinator of Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford. One Sunday morning in November 2012, his 12-string guitar was stolen from Emmanuel as he was preparing to lead a worship team. He shared the loss as a prayer concern at a Vancouver pastors’ meeting. In response, the pastor from First United Spanish Mennonite Church said he knew one of his members had a 12-string guitar he wasn’t using. The member offered Neufeld the guitar at no cost, and he gratefully received it. Another request that later came from the pastors group was that someone from the Spanish church needed a kidney transplant.

Meanwhile, Sawatsky had been struggling for years with kidney failure and blogging about his journey (see kidneyforruss.wordpress.com). He went on medical disability leave when he began dialysis in 2014.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

If, like Gerald, you are interested in living organ donation, this link includes general information about both kidney and liver donations.

You can also register as a deceased organ donor by following the links or the contact information on this site for the province or territory where you reside.