He Stole my Heart. I Gave Him my Kidney.
We knew the day was coming. My husband, Adam, had been diagnosed with kidney disease years earlier, and it was inevitable his kidneys would deteriorate to end-stage kidney failure.
We knew the phone call was coming – the day when we received the dreaded call from the nephrologist telling us Adam’s kidneys were worsening. We received the call. It was unsettling, and Adam being the warrior he is, put all his energy into being the best father and husband he could be.
Being an active family, we spent our free time outdoors hiking, sledding, fishing, running, travelling, and we knew that if Adam had to go on dialysis, we would lose this. Dialysis would rob us of his remaining energy. Dialysis would steal the time he had to be with our daughter, Elly, and me. We knew that if Adam went on dialysis, I would need to wear multiple hats: full-time worker, mother, nurse, and household manager. I was ready to do anything for my husband and best friend, but how would this impact Elly? Our lives? Our social relationships? I was afraid.
The scary reality of organ donation is that we take for granted how rare it is to give someone the gift of life. We had incredible people in our lives get tested, but one by one, they were declined. I naturally assumed I would be a match for Adam, but I was rejected.
Being told I was rejected was one of the hardest things I’ve experienced in my life. I wanted to donate to Adam. I was healthy, willing, and frankly, our lives were dependent on it. How could I be rejected?
Months after I was rejected, I received a call from my transplant coordinator telling me some of my previous results may have been inaccurate. And while getting tested meant I had endless travel to Edmonton, a city over 400 km away, I jumped at the opportunity. I knew I was given another chance to save my husband and ensure my daughter had a healthy father beside her – was this real?
On February 7, 2017, I hugged my husband one last time before we were rolled into the OR to donate my kidney to him. Naturally, the surgery is scary, and I remember tears of fear slowly trickling down my face as the nurses and doctors took me into the cold, bright operation room. I wanted to be strong for Adam, Elly, and, most importantly, myself. This was the only time I felt scared, but there was no turning back. The anesthesia put me to sleep.
I woke up to the overwhelming news that I had successfully donated my kidney to my husband, and it was working! Because of my donation, my husband never did need dialysis. Our lives were not interrupted to the extent it would have been had Adam required to wait for a deceased organ donation. We did not have to live in fear of waiting for a transplant that may never arrive. Elly would have her father, and I would have my best friend.
We just celebrated our fourth kidney transplant anniversary, and we both could not be doing better. Adam has the same incredible energy he always did. As a donor, I am “A-okay.” I haven’t had any sideeffects and, in fact, we welcomed our second daughter, Nora to our family in 2019!
I share this story in the hope of inspiring others to register as organ donors or to think about living organ donation. Giving the gift of life is a privilege. We need more organ donors because transplants, on average, last 10 – 20 years. We will one day need another transplant or dialysis. We will face this when it is time, but what about the thousands of Canadians already waiting for a life-saving transplant? Hundreds die every year waiting for a transplant. How can this be? You could save a life.
Adam and I share a connection we never thought we’d share, and I feel lucky to be part of his journey, which is now our journey. For those who have made it this care, I encourage you to think about donation – all it takes is hope, strength, and courage.