Tag Archives: Ontario

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

Advertisements

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

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.