Tag Archives: Ontario

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

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How Artificial Intelligence (AI) Changed Organ Donation

I received a kidney from a living donor in 2016. That this happened was a result of developments described in this article, a program run by Canadian Blood Services that would take all the available but incompatible donor-recipient pairs across Canada and seek to match them up. After going through that exercise multiple times with no success, the difference came about because an altruistic anonymous donor came forward. This resulted in a chain of paired donations and new lives for many people.

The following article, although specifically addressing the US context, describes these circumstances in great detail. The opening lines really grab you:

How AI changed organ donation in the US

By Corinne Purtill

There used to be only three ways off of a kidney transplant waiting list. The first was to find a healthy person from within one’s own pool of friends and family, who perfectly matched both the recipient’s blood and tissue types, and possessed a spare kidney he or she was willing to part with.

The second was to wait for the unexpected death of a stranger who was a suitable physical match and happened to have the organ-donor box checked on their driver’s license.

The third was to die.

Although algorithms have made a tremendous difference in matching up eligible donors and recipients, the medical ethics around organ donation cannot be resolved by a mathematical model. I’m sure you will find the included discussion of a “God committee” fascinating.

Click here to read the article.

And in a related note, I’ll be participating in the Kidney Walk this weekend. If you are interested in supporting those living with kidney disease by making a donation, click here to go to my sponsorship page.

Going on a Kidney Walk, 2018 edition

It has been a while since I have published here.

I have been back at work since the beginning 2017. However, since mid-June I have taken a personal leave of absence. No, not because of ill health, but because my wife, Etsuko, has taken a short-term contract job in Japan. She is an interpreter for a Japanese construction company that is building wind turbines that were engineered by General Electric (GE). Since we did not want to be separated for several months, I’ve taken a leave until the new year.

Having said that, I will be back in London Ontario in early September for several weeks. That timing happens to allow me to participate in the Kidney Walk once again, which is what I am announcing by this post.

Here is my message on my personal donation page:

Hello, Friends!

Once again, for the fourth year in a row, I am participating in the Kidney Walk for The Kidney Foundation of Canada. The purpose of the walk is to raise funds to help people with kidney disease and to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation.

Would you like to make a donation? If so, you can do it online by clicking the “donate now” button below. If you would like to donate by other means, please let me know and I will make arrangements.

As many of you know, I am currently in Japan. However, I will be returning to London, Ontario in early September in plenty of time for the walk. One of the wonderful benefits of having been a recipient of kidney transplant two years ago on July 29, 2016, is that I am now freely able to make this sort of extended trip with no trouble at all. I am so grateful.

Thank you for your support!

Russ

Out for some morning exercise in Noshiro, Akita, Japan.

DONATE NOW

 

 

Organ donation by Humboldt Broncos player inspires others

Please read this article about the decision Humboldt Broncos hockey player, Logan Boulet, made to become an organ donor. In particular, note that there are 4500 people across Canada in need of an organ transplant, among them a two-year-old boy named Mason.

Organ donation by Humboldt Broncos player inspires others

Donation agencies across Canada say registration jumped after bus crash that claimed 15 lives

Humboldt Broncos defenceman Logan Boulet, 21, was from Lethbridge, Alta. Boulet had recently signed an organ donation card and was kept on life support while matches were found for his organs. He was expected to save the lives of at least six people. (SJHL)

Many social media users say the donation of Humboldt Broncos player Logan Boulet’s organs has inspired them to become donors themselves, with health officials in three provinces saying online registrations have surged in the days following the horrific crash.

A spokesperson for British Columbia’s organ donation agency said it saw more than a sixfold increase in online registrations over the weekend compared to two weeks earlier, and Ontario officials said registrations nearly tripled Sunday over the same period of time.

Boulet, a 21-year-old defenceman from Lethbridge, Alta., was among the 15 people who died after the junior hockey team’s bus and a transport truck in Saskatchewan collided Friday. Fourteen others were injured.

His godfather posted a statement on behalf of the family saying a surgical team from Alberta travelled to a Saskatoon hospital to conduct organ transplant procedures early Sunday morning.

Neil Langevin said six people were set to receive the “gift of life” from Boulet, and his other organs would be donated to science.

“Logan had made it known, and very clear to his family, that he had signed his organ donor card when he turned 21 just a few weeks ago,” Langevin said in a Facebook post.

“These actions alone give voice to the selfless and benevolent nature Logan possessed in life for others.”

Click here to read more…

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

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.

A Message from a Living Kidney Donor

A few months ago in the post, A Somewhat Oddly Timed Thanksgiving, I mentioned Gerald Neufeld, who donated a kidney on my behalf as part of the Paired Kidney Donation (a.k.a. Living Donor Paired Exchange) program. I had mentioned in that post that Gerald had been a missionary in Japan. These days Gerald continues to be involved in church ministries in two part-time roles, one as pastor of a small Japanese congregation in Surrey, BC, and the other as the music coordinator for Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, BC. On February 12, he shared the following message at Emmanuel:

Faith, Christian Community, and Kidney Donation

Galatians 6:1-10

I’d like to tell you a bit about my experience in donating a kidney a number of months ago. Most of this message will be about my experience. Many people think that it must have been a huge decision for me, but I really felt like it was just a number of small steps of faith. God has blessed me with great health, a supportive family, and a wonderful church community. In deciding to take steps to donate a kidney I felt like I was just responding to God for all the blessings I’ve received…

If you read the article I wrote in the Emmanuel newsletter you would have seen how I decided to donate. Rather than it being one huge step of faith, it really felt like a lot of little things, pieces of a puzzle that came together. As I reflect on this, I realize how much community has been woven through the whole process.

In Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia he tells them to “Bear one another’s burdens…” Here, he’s likely talking about helping people who are of bearing the burden that results from sin and the consequences of sin, but the burdens that we can help each other with could be anything that takes away from the joy in living our faith – sickness, difficulty finding work, struggles in relationships, uncertainty about the future… I’m not going to get into a lot more detail here but I thought this passage fits well with the role of the faith community in everyday life. A big part of bearing one another’s burdens involves prayer, and as I look back on my experience it’s interesting how the prayers and support of our faith community played such a major role.

At a Vancouver pastor’s meeting, when I first heard a prayer request for a man who was dying because his kidneys were failing, I began to not only pray for him, but I also thought, “Would it work for me to actually donate a kidney?” I began praying to see if God may be leading me this way. Didn’t John the Baptist say “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none”? I figured I have two healthy kidneys, I guess maybe I could share with someone who has none (at least none that are functioning well)! I remember my wife Rie’s initial reaction. “I hope it doesn’t work out for you to do it!” She was quite worried! But then, she also began to pray about it and soon she was strongly supporting me, I think because she sensed that maybe God was leading me in this direction. I did lots of research, and found out that most people who donate a kidney have no problems afterward and can live a normal life. You don’t need any special medication or anything, and the only restriction I have now is that they advise against skydiving. (I’ve never figured out why)…

I read in the Canadian Mennonite magazine about another pastor who donated a kidney, and had no problems, so I decided to take another step and begin the donation process. I had to go through many tests in order to make sure I was healthy enough to donate. If any tests showed a danger of health problems in the future, I would not have been allowed to continue the process. It was at this point that I heard the one to whom I’d possibly donate a kidney, was from the same family that had given me a guitar several months earlier! When my 12-string guitar had been stolen I had put out a prayer request during one of the pastor’s meetings, hoping someone may know about a good deal on buying another guitar, and one pastor suggested he could check with a church member who has a 12-string guitar that was hardly ever used. Right away, I heard that I could have it. Now, this was the same family praying for a kidney! I had already pretty much decided to start the process to donate, but this helped confirm my decision. If they gave me a guitar, I guess I could give them a kidney! Since I wasn’t compatible with the person who needed the kidney, I joined a special program where other incompatible donors and recipients are matched. So, between 2, 3, or 4 incompatible pairs people could be matched so that each person can indirectly donate or receive. It usually takes several months, but before we were matched, the other person actually received a kidney from a deceased donor. I then wondered if God was saying, OK, you don’t have to donate anymore. But by that time, I had heard about a different friend who needed a kidney, so I decided to stay on the list in order to donate for him. Why not? I was all ready to donate! Russ Sawatsky is a friend I’d met in Japan. We’d both been mission workers there, and had met several times. Now, Russ is living with his family in Ontario… After much waiting, we were finally matched and we each had surgery.

To have surgery, I wasn’t too scared because I felt that God had led me to this decision. Of course there was a potential that there may be some complication, but I felt that even if I ended up with some major problem, God would continue to lead me through. I sensed your prayers as well as the prayers of many others in my wider community of family and friends.

Through this whole process, I didn’t let myself think too much about possible things that could go wrong (‘cause I didn’t want to chicken out!) (even though the chances of anything terrible happening were quite slim). I expected everything to go smoothly, but there were a few unexpected things that happened, reminding me that this was a complex process. I guess one thing is that the whole process took longer than I expected. When I first called the number of the “Pre-Assessment Transplant Clinic,” I gave them my email address, and they then sent me all the information I needed to get started in the process. I was thinking in my head that once I called that number, I was committing myself to donate, and would probably have surgery within a few weeks. It could have happened in a couple of months, but in the end, it was over a year later that everything finally worked out. During the process there were many opportunities for me to decide to opt out if I wanted. The staff were very careful to make sure I didn’t feel obligated to continue if I suddenly felt uncomfortable about the whole thing.

After the surgery, I was a bit surprised that it was somewhat more challenging than I had expected. There was no time when I felt all that much pain. At home, though, I took the maximum recommended dosage of painkillers because I wanted to be able to sleep, but it had the opposite effect. My mind went into a panic and I was not able to sleep for over 30 hours! It was a strange feeling, and at times I thought I might die. I prayed quite a bit during that time, committing to God, but physically my mind could not stop racing. After that I didn’t take any more painkillers and I actually don’t think I needed them. I’m glad that the weird effects only lasted about a day, and I’m thankful for all your prayers during my recovery. It was quite meaningful for me to know that I am a part of a larger faith community. It wasn’t just my own prayers that gave me strength, as I’ve mentioned before. You have been participating as well.

In the scripture passage read today, Paul not only encourages the people to bear one another’s burdens, he also says that everyone must carry their own loads. This might seem to be contradictory, but the meaning is different. We are to support and encourage each other along the way, but everyone must also take responsibility for their own actions. Someday, we’ll each have to give an account of how well we lived with what God has given us. The good news is that we are already children of God, part of God’s Kingdom through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us on the cross.

Today’s passage from Galatians ends with the encouragement to do what is right, not giving up, and whenever we have the opportunity, to “work for the good of all, especially those of the family of faith.” We all have chances to take a step of faith in some area. It doesn’t have to be organ donation. Maybe God is calling you to commit to give a greater percentage of your money to help others. Or maybe you are being called to give of your time, or something else in a different area. It may be a bit scary, but if you take just a small step of faith, you will see what God can do! And the one step may lead to another and another! I actually did a lot of calculating before deciding to donate a kidney, but I’m trying to trust more and more in God’s leading so that I can take more steps in the direction I feel God leading, even if I haven’t calculated and weighed all the possibilities. Sometimes I end up waiting too long before taking a step of faith, but with the support and encouragement of believers around me I’m learning to trust our Lord, more and more. Our steps of faith may be wobbly like a baby learning to walk. We’ll sometimes fall, but like a loving parent, I believe God is pleased to see us keep trying.

The great thing is that we are not alone in taking our steps. We are part of a faith community. How do we bear one another’s burdens? Here in Canada, we value independence. We teach kids to stand on their own, and take their own responsibility. We make sure we are doing the right thing, and it doesn’t matter so much how others are doing. But, when I lived in Japan I saw a different culture where the emphasis was much more on the community. The needs of the group take priority over individual needs. In Japan people are taught to think about the needs of others before their own. I sometimes notice this cultural difference between my wife and me. She’s criticised my driving because I’ve often failed to let others into my lane. My driving style is to mainly make sure I am following the rules, and others can do what they want, but in Japan people are taught to consider others, even when driving. I think we can learn something from them in this area.

It’s so easy to go through life with blinders on (like a horse). Sometimes horses have blinders on each side of their head so they don’t get distracted and can focus straight ahead. Instead, I’m trying to take more notice of what’s happening around me. It’s not good to just focus on my own situation all the time. Is there some area where you’ve noticed a need? Maybe it’s time to step into the situation in order to offer help in bearing another’s burden, so to speak.

All through the process of my experience, I’ve sensed the work of the wider faith community — after losing my guitar, in my request for prayer at the pastor’s meeting, the request for prayer when someone needed a kidney, the prayers and support from you as well as family and friends in other places, as I underwent surgery, the prayers and support as I took time off work. Community played a role as I learned through the Canadian Mennonite magazine about the other pastor who donated a kidney. And, my connection with Russ Sawatsky through mission work and the wider Mennonite community was another area where community played a role. It’s good to hear that Russ is now doing well, and also the person who directly received my kidney here in BC. I also feel pretty much back to normal.

So, what about each of us, in our lives? Where might God be leading us to take a small step of faith? Jesus said we only need faith the size of a tiny mustard seed. The reason is, God recognizes our little attempts to be faithful, and brings us the rest of the way. Each of us are called to really just take a small step. It usually involves some risk. Maybe God is calling you to take a step. Many people have already signed a donor card. It can easily be done online, and even kids can sign up. A link is provided in the bulletin, but you can also just do a search for “BC Transplant.” Someone who has registered a decision to donate any organs needed, after death, could potentially save the lives of eight different people. Or, some of us may feel a calling to sometime become a live donor. Recently, I was amazed to hear that if you donate a part of your liver, it grows back! If I’d known that, maybe I should have done a liver donation rather than kidney! No… I have no regrets. Maybe someday I’ll consider the liver. But, one thing is becoming more and more clear to me. I think I may never have experienced donating a kidney if it hadn’t been for the supportive community and the encouragement I experienced in the small steps along the way.

Let’s pray.

Almighty God, you have blessed us with so much! Thank-you for all you’ve given us. Thank-you that through your Son, Jesus we have perfect peace and joy. Thank-you for the gift of your church. Each day, you lead us, O Lord. Thank-you that no matter what happens around us we need not fear, because you walk with us. Help us to trust that you always provide us with everything we need to do your will. Increase our generosity, that we may rely more and more on you and less and less on ourselves. Grant us the courage to step out in faith. Help us to notice those areas where you call us to step in and help bear another’s burden. May we recognise the opportunities you give us to take those small steps of faith, through the power of Christ at work within us, Amen.