Tag Archives: kidney donation

The Globe and Mail. “No more secrets: Why I broke protocol as a kidney donor”

This “First Person” article originally appeared in The Globe and Mail on April 27, 2018.

 

 

Twice a year – at Christmas and in early June – I hear from a man whom I have met only once, who lives in a remote village far from my Vancouver home, but with whom I share something intimate: our kidneys. I’ve got one, he’s got the other. I’m not supposed to know this man. Protocols in the national Kidney Paired Donation program decree that donors and recipients who are strangers should remain that way.

Vern and I were part of a cross-Canada exchange involving multiple donor-recipient pairs that resulted in my daughter, Kasari, receiving a kidney from someone closer to her age and my kidney going to Vern, who is closer to my age and for whom my kidney will be a better match.

While for some, donor-recipient confidentiality in a paired kidney exchange makes perfect sense, for inquisitive people like Kasari and me (and, it turns out, Vern and his wife, Shirl), engaging in something as intimate as a kidney transplant ignites our most basic curiosity. Who is now walking around with my kidney? What kind of a person is she or he? How does she or he feel about it? How is my kidney working out for them? And who gave my daughter the incredible gift of her new kidney? I mean, this is a vital organ we’re talking about. This is shared DNA. This is important, life-altering stuff.

By putting two and two and two together and watching those shuffling the post-op corridors and the comings and goings during endless hours in post-op waiting rooms, Kasari and Shirl were able to figure out whose kidney went to whom. Because we are not supposed to know these things, they had to be tentative, discreet and sensitive to signals when exchanging pleasantries before my daughter could say, “I think my mum’s kidney went to your husband. What do you think?”

Click here to read the rest of the article.

 

 

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Health Update

Just a brief update here today. The onset of Type 2 diabetes becomes more likely once one receives a transplant after age 45. Although my new kidney has been working well, I certainly haven’t wanted to put its good functioning to the test by having elevated blood sugar.

Here’s a chart which explains what the A1C numbers mean and where it puts one on the scale.

My first tests had me in the low 7s. Category: diabetic. The last time I was tested the A1C score came in at 6.4, a great number which indicated I had moved into the pre-diabetic range. This past week, the score was 5.8: non-diabetic! Wow. My first question was, “Does this mean I’m now free to scarf down a bunch of chocolate?” (I had visions of gnawing on the ears of a solid chocolate Easter bunny….) I was somewhat discouraged from pursuing that venture, but even so, I’m feeling pretty good about this number and hope I can maintain the disciplines of diet and exercise that have got me here.

Wishing you all a happy and blessed Easter (with or without chocolate!).

Grace and Peace,

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

Announcing the 2017 Kidney Walk

Hello friends,

Thanks for all your support for me in the years leading up to, and now one year beyond, the kidney transplant I received on July 29, 2016. Once again, I am participating in the London, Ontario Kidney Walk, raising funds for the Kidney Foundation of Canada. The Walk will take place on September 24. Between now and then I would appreciate any donations you are willing to make for this cause.

Did you know that the largest proportion of those in need of a transplant are those waiting for a kidney? Sad to say, those numbers are increasing. Among other things, the money you donate will help to fund research into finding more effective ways to respond to kidney disease and to support those with kidney disease.

Please follow this link to my Kidney Walk page and click on the green rectangle with “Donate Now” written on it to make a donation as you see fit.

Also, if you have been considering signing up as an organ donor, but haven’t done so yet, please click on this link as well to register as a donor. As the slogan goes, “Don’t take your organs to heaven, heaven knows we need them here!”

Thank you,

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