Councillor Steve Bender is, like many os us who are aging more or less gracefully, finds himself in a difficult situation these days: His kidneys are failing and, unless he can find a compatible donated kidney, could find himself facing years of dialysis.
“I’m down to 14% function in my kidneys,” he told me during a brief interview.
As you’ll see from the letter below he is hoping a Good Samaritan will come forward and donate an organ.
“It could be a year; it could be two weeks,” I just don’t know. That’s the way it goes. It is what it is.”
Stevie was reluctant to share the letter outside his circle of close friends and family members but his wife, Adelheid sent it to me and asked if The Current would publish.
I am happy to do that and hope it yields some results for Steve.
Dear Family and Close Friends,
This letter is extremely difficult for me to write. That’s why I’m not writing it. Gawd, it sounds like a sob story some desperate rummy would tell you on the steps of the liquor store just before closing. It just ain’t me, so I’ll let the good folk at the St. Paul’s kidney clinic explain the situation. They are unbelievably professional, helpful and empathetic. We hear enough guff about the cost of our health care system but if you look into what these people do you’d vote for higher premiums. (OK, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch). So here it is in a bombshell. The experts at St. Paul’s suggest strongly that I use social media to the message out. Imagine, me using social media.
Though you may be aware that my kidney function has been declining steadily over the past few years, you may not be aware of what I am currently facing.
Until now, the disease has only meant regular monitoring by various doctors and controlling my diet and blood pressure. Unfortunately, over the past couple of years, my condition has worsened and I have to face the reality of kidney failure in very near future. We are talking months here.
My options at this point are: kidney transplant from a living donor (best case scenario); transplant from a deceased donor (typically a 3 to 5 year wait); or dialysis (which means living a restricted lifestyle, hooked up to a machine several times throughout the day or through the night).
Thankfully, I appear to be and currently feel well and from the outside, you’d never know what I am facing. However, it will only be a few more months before my kidneys will not function well enough without intervention.
It has been recommended to me that a living donor transplant is the best-case scenario to continue living a healthy life. I have also learned that if I can bypass dialysis all together, the prognosis is even better. Now the hard part: I need to find someone who is willing to donate a kidney as soon as possible. I realize that what I am asking is an enormous sacrifice for anyone to make and that having major surgery is not going to be easy. On the upside, we all have 2 kidneys and yet we only need one to live a normal, healthy life. For this reason, it is possible for people to donate one kidney. Outside of the risks associated with any surgery, donors don’t typically experience negative health effects from donating a kidney. The length of stay in hospital is 3-4 days and the recovery time is 4-6 weeks, though the transplant centre is willing to write a time-off work letter for 6-8 weeks. Less than 1% of the population develop kidney disease that end up needing dialysis or transplant…in other words, it’s not common and not likely it could happen to you. There is financial support for donors to avoid out of pocket costs like hotel stay and transportation to Vancouver.
If this request were one you would ever consider, or wish to know more about, St. Paul’s has a wonderful donor team that you can contact completely confidentially. You can reach them at 604-806-9027 or at firstname.lastname@example.org . They are experts in this area and can give you all the details on what is involved and what to expect if you were found to be a suitable donor. Your inquiry, as well as the process of determining your eligibility as a donor, is all kept confidential. In fact, St. Paul’s runs a very professional donor program and I will never be told whether you, or anyone, have expressed interest in donating a kidney (unless you tell me, of course). Also, donors are heavily supported and given the comfort of pulling out of the process at any time.
I hope you realize how much I value my family and friendships. My wish is not to put pressure on anyone to participate on this journey with me. I recognize that your lives have their own complexity and that becoming an organ donor will not be in the realm of possibility for some of you. Please know that your support is more than enough.
Thank you for reading this.
PS. Out of curiosity you might want to dial in; http://www.transplantmanitoba.ca/uploads/ck/files/brochures/LDPE-GenericBrochureE4034.pdf
Here’s a bit of related information: Living Kidney Donation Q & A http://www.transplant.bc.ca/living_kidney_main.htm note**the donor scar is now only 3-4 inches long instead of what’s stated on the website!
Google this phrase: “Kidney Donors Live Longer”
Google: “Oldest UK donor” – an 83 year old became the oldest living donor in the UK. Yes, it’s a big surgery…but watch how this guy looks afterwards. He is not unique…most donors recover this way. A BBC video interviewing him weeks after he donated will be the first result on Google.
YouTube link about a woman who donated to her friend: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYLfgIRIo4c or search Kidney Donor – Shaw TV Nanaimo
Do you know that less than 1% of the population develop kidney disease that end up needing dialysis or transplant…in other words, it’s not common and not likely it could happen to most of the population.
There is financial support for donors to avoid out of pocket costs like hotel stay and flight to Vancouver
IF for some reason the donor ends up developing kidney disease and needs a transplant, they go near the top of the waiting list for their blood type. We have not done this after 700+ living donor transplants.
The chance of dying under anesthesia while undergoing a donor transplant surgery is 3 deaths out of 10,000. That’s .03%! Per our surgeon, there is a higher chance of dying under anesthesia removing a wisdom tooth than to die under anesthesia while being a kidney donor.
A St. Paul’s patient showing how peritoneal dialysis looks like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJ1eE_gS_wo
Same patient showing the monthly delivery of peritoneal dialysis supplies:
Kidney transplantation is a life-extending procedure. The typical patient will live 10 to 15 years longer with a kidney transplant than if kept on dialysis. The increase in longevity is greater for younger patients, but even 75-year-old recipients (the oldest group for which there is data) gain an average four more years of life. People generally have more energy, a less restricted diet, and fewer complications with a kidney transplant than if they stay on conventional dialysis.
Approximate number of kidneys per year at St. Paul’s based on Blood Type:
Blood type O = 25
Blood type A = 25
Blood type B = 1-2
Blood type O (that’s me!) = 25