Jan Anderson

Thanks to the generosity of strangers

Kidney walkers testify that organ donation saves lives

Can you imagine having to shop for a suit for your own funeral? That’s what Dennean Gould was doing about 14 years ago when dialysis wasn’t working and he had made peace with the fact that his kidney failure was about to kill him.

“It’s bizarre to me now, looking back on it, but I wanted to look good for my own funeral,” he says, looking out over the water at Frank James Park on Sunday before the annual Kidney Walk.

“But I’m a very lucky guy. My sister saved my life.”

Things were pretty dire for Gould – as should be evident by the fact that he was shopping for a suit to be buried in.

“I did dialysis for about three years,” he says, “and I just kept sliding down. It just wasn’t working. I was down about 125 pounds or something. I don’t consider myself a very courageous person, but it’s amazing how when you’re faced with that, you just do what needs to be done. I had two young kids and I was still working, and you just do what you need to do.

“I needed to shop for a suit to be buried in, so I did.”

When his family found out what kind of shape he was in, they offered to help, as any family would.

“I have five siblings in Manitoba, and they all said, ‘hey, whatever you need, we’ll give you,’” Gould says. “But I was, like, ‘this isn’t like lending someone your car for the weekend,’” he laughs.

At first, Gould resisted.

“I said, ‘no, these are the cards I was dealt in life, this is just the way it’s going to go,’” but then his sister asked him a simple question that convinced him to accept their help.

She asked him if he wanted to see his kids graduate.

That one question changed his view on the problem, and once he gave in, the testing began. His siblings began to get tested to see if they were a match, and if they were, to see how close that match was.

There are six genetic markers the doctors look at to determine if a donor is a match, Gould says, and his sister matched all six.

“Apparently, we’re basically twins, I guess,” he laughs.

These days, Gould says, he’s “healthier than I was, even in my 20s,” and has a revitalized view of life. He’s since burned the suit he bought to be buried in. He wouldn’t fit it anymore, anyway.

“It doesn’t matter about my Harley Davidsons, it doesn’t matter about my work, or my vehicles, or the house,” Gould says. “What really matters to me is relationships.

“Whether it’s with your kids, with your parents, with your spouse, with the neighbours’ dog, or with the reporter from the paper that you just met today. That’s really what it’s all about.”

Barbara Krack wasn’t so lucky to have a direct match within her family, but thanks to the Living Donor Paired Exchange (LDPE) program, and the generosity of strangers and friends alike, she didn’t need one.

The LDPE is just what it sounds like. People who need a kidney are paired with someone willing to donate one.

First they pair up with someone who will donate one, but isn’t a match for them.

They undergo stringent testing to ensure they are capable of donating.

Then they join the list together, and when there is another donor-recipient pair in Canada that matches, the transplant goes forward.

“So the anonymous person who got my kidney,” says Jan Anderson, who donated her kidney on behalf of Krack, “was paired with the person who gave theirs to Barb.”

This pairing system speeds up the process significantly, which is good, because the list to receive a kidney in B.C. is about seven years long.

“This year, the walk is focusing on the transplant and donor part of things,” says Krack. “What I hope that people get out of it is the fact that you actually can get a kidney. You don’t have to go on dialysis.

“You can find your own kidney. You don’t have to wait years and years for someone to pass away to get one.

“And it makes all the difference in the world.”

Oct. 9 will be the one year anniversary of Krack’s transplant, and both she and Anderson are doing better than ever.

Anderson says that although it’s a major surgery, she was in and out of hospital within a few days, and was back at work within six or eight weeks.

“I do everything I want to do. I’m as active as I was before, and I feel fine. People can do this – donate – and still have a high quality of life.”

Acting mayor at last weekend’s Kidney Walk, Coun. Charlie Cornfield, said one in 10 people are affected by kidney disease.

“In a city like ours, that means there’s roughly 3,500 people with kidney disease of some form or a related disorder such as diabetes – that’s me – kidney stones, urinary tract infections, hypertension or other issues.

“It’s something that effects a lot of us, and currently there’s no cure.”

He also said that although 95 per cent of British Columbians say they support organ donation, only 16 per cent have registered as organ donors, and he encouraged everyone in attendance to fill out an organ donation form and be a part of saving lives.

You can find out more about kidney disease, organ donation or how you can help the cause by heading over to the Kidney Foundation of Canada’s website at www.kidney.ca