Organ donation saves and improves many lives
The saying “You are never given something you can’t handle” is being put to the test since I was diagnosed last spring with kidney failure. The doctor advised me that going to Seattle to perform, Dik and Mitzi, our husband and wife comedy tap dance duo in the fall would not be a good idea….
The saying “You are never given something you can’t handle” is being put to the test since I was diagnosed last spring with kidney failure. The doctor advised me that going to Seattle to perform, Dik and Mitzi, our husband and wife comedy tap dance duo in the fall would not be a good idea. From one day to the next, my life and my husband, Wayne’s, was completely changed forever.
I have been traveling and earning my living as a performer since the age of 19. Now at 45, the people at the Kidney Foundation tell me, “This is the start of your new life”. I was perfectly happy with the old one, thank you. O.K., a part of me was getting tired of packing and unpacking, so that part of me felt a bit of relief that we would be staying in one place for awhile, and I must say that Sutton is a great place to be. However, the other part of me, the performer, the vagabond, however was feeling immense pain that it will never be as it was. The freedom of just picking up and going on a trip, or taking a last minute contract in a faraway place is not realistic in the near future.
It’s hard not to think, “Why me? Why now? Why us?’’ when our tap dancing as a duo is at its peak? But the hard truth is, life is unfair, and as Wayne said to me, “As soon we accept it and somehow embrace it, the faster we can move on with living a happy life.”
Wayne has been an incredible partner through this. I have felt him love me in such a way that I doubt I would ever have felt had this not happened and I wouldn’t trade that kind of love for anything. We are really living the “In sickness and in health” part of our marriage. I have also felt the loving support of my family, friends, and the compassion of casual acquaintances has been unbelievable.
I am trying to embrace this whole thing as an experience or as a medical adventure. The best treatment for my type of kidney failure is a transplant; the other 2 options are dialysis or death. A transplant is definitely what I want and until then, I will have to be on dialysis. The first decision I had to make was which of the 2 types of dialysis, hemo or peritoneal, I wanted to go on. Hemo dialysis cleans the blood directly with a large machine at the hospital and is done 3 times a week for 4 hours. Unfortunately, this is only available in Sherbrooke, as there is a waiting list for Granby. The home-administered peritoneal dialysis is done with the use of chemically balanced water with a small machine or manually. By machine, there are 4 water exchanges done in 9 hours at night while asleep or it can be done manually, 4 times a day for about 45 minutes each.
I opted for the peritoneal dialysis. The good news – it’s possible to travel with this type of dialysis. It just takes a lot of planning to have the supplies delivered to a specific address. So on Dec. 20th I went into surgery to receive the catheter required. I did a 4-day workshop in Sherbrooke, I received my first 700lb. delivery of supplies required to perform the treatments and so far so good.
The 2 options for transplant are a living donor or a deceased donor. The advantages of a living donor are that the surgery is scheduled; the transplant usually works for 15 to 20 years, and is generally more successful. Most healthy adults can live a totally normal life with one kidney. Some people are born with only one kidney and don’t even realize it until an X-ray is done. The other option is to wait for as long as 3 years for a kidney from a deceased donor and that kind of transplant usually works for about 10 years.
So this is where I am at. I’m putting all this out there in the hope of finding a donor, but also to remind everyone about deceased organ donation. The best way to let it be known that you wish to be a donor is by affixing the sticker and signing the back of your driver’s license. This is a sensitive issue to talk about, but if you are interested and do believe in being a donor, let your friends and family know. I was watching a David Suzuki special on transplants and it was heart-wrenching to watch a family go through the loss of their son and then having to decide whether or not to donate his organs. They finally did decide to donate his organs and, by doing so, saved and improved many lives. Their decision would have been made simpler if they had only known what his wishes were.
In conclusion, I feel positive about how far medicine has come in the last 50 years. I inherited polycystic kidneys from my grandfather who died at the age of 43 because there were no transplants or dialysis at the time. My father, my brother and sister also inherited this disease. My father, affected only at the age of 60, spent 10 years on dialysis and finally received a successful transplant from a deceased donor in 2012. He is doing well and is an inspiration. Organ donation saves and improves many lives – I have seen it.