In 2002, I was on my way to British Columbia while doing one of the things I loved most – riding my motorcycle. As an expert rider, being on a motorcycle was (and continues to be) a passion of mine – riding comes to me as completely second nature.
During this routine trip, I was in an accident where I broke the ball of my shoulder. While this hasn’t deterred me from enjoying my bikes and riding, the accident led to serious health issues including severe pain, infections, swelling, requiring a prosthetic arm, pericarditis, and being diagnosed with diabetes.
I’ve endured years of being poked, prodded, and having my medications continuously changed as my doctors tried to fight various infection, pain, and swelling. But it wasn’t until 2 years ago that I received different sets of test to see what was happening to my body and why treatment wasn’t working.
Unfortunately, this test confirmed another health issue – my kidneys were failing,
13 years after the motorcycle accident, I was told the series of infections, swelling, and other health issues led my kidneys to be overworked. It was estimated that my kidneys began to fail approximately 7-8 years earlier, but because it had gone undiagnosed, my kidney were functioning at 23%.
While my kidney function increased and decreased to various rates, it finally dropped to 9% function due to medications I was taking to treat the pericarditis. Because I had now entered end-stage renal failure, in September 2017, I was put on dialysis.
Given my work schedule and the need to have more freedom, I’ve decided to do peritoneal dialysis, rather than in-centre hemodialysis. I need dialysis to not only function, but to survive.
I’ve also been put on a transplant waiting list.
While I struggle with the medications the doctors have given me and the need to change them until my body reacts positively to them, my goal is to work with my nephrology team so I can be as healthy as possible so I remain eligible for a transplants. I’ve been told I’m a good candidate to receive a transplant, but given the extreme shortage of kidneys in Alberta (and Canada), it is likely a couple of years until I receive the call offering me the gift of life.
Still, I know that call can come at any moment – I’ve been warned by my team to always be available. So I live with my phone at my side, ensuring my nephrology team is aware if I am out of the city, but really, I avoid leaving the city when possible.
While dialysis and the restricted freedom is a reality for a dialysis patients like myself, I know it’s the price of receiving a transplant. I don’t have another choice until society gets to the point where we have enough organs for people like myself and other patients.
Awareness and education, as I’ve come to learn, is critical to ensuring an organ becomes available.
As with most people, I wasn’t fully aware of the organ shortage in Alberta and Canada. I didn’t realize how important kidneys are to our bodies. And I wasn’t aware of the importance of dialysis and transplantation as lifesaving treatments.
So to me, sharing my journey represents another much needed step to ensure individuals have the resources, knowledge, and awareness needed to successfully battle kidney disease and receive a transplant.
More importantly, folks need to be informed so they can make the choice to become an organ donor.
Ultimately, just because I don’t look sick doesn’t mean that I’m not. This is a battle many kidney disease survivors face, in my view, and it’s time it stopped.
Education and awareness will ensure people with kidney disease have options and it is my sincere hope that my story can add to the ongoing movement.
This is what is needed in Alberta and across Canada.