Fifteen years ago, Mary donated a kidney to her brother Evan, who was diagnosed with kidney failure when he was just 15 years old. This is where their organ donor story began.
Evan’s mom and dad, as well as his brother and two sisters, agreed to be tested to determine who, if anyone, was a good match to be a kidney donor for Evan.
Of the five family members, Evan’s sister, Mary, was deemed the best match. The strong match was fantastic news for the whole family and led to significant hope for a successful outcome.
Evan had numerous checkups and appointments in the subsequent months to monitor his kidney function. The arrangements for the transplant could not be completed until his kidney function reached a certain low. It became a waiting game. Although there was no need for dialysis during that time, Evan had a very restricted diet and was limited in his amount and type of physical activity. Much of the time, he had very little energy and felt sick.
Finally, the transplant date was set for December 6, 2001. While Eastern Health’s Organ Donor Program works closely with donors and recipients, transplants are not performed in St. John’s, so Evan, his parents and sister flew to Halifax for the surgery.
The day before the transplant, I checked into the hospital and was given a thorough rundown on what was to happen over the next few days. Doctors explained that I would go into surgery first and once my kidney was safely removed, Evan would be brought into another room where they would perform the transplant.
On the morning of day two, Evan came to my room. We wished each other good luck and said we’d see each other in a few hours.
As the staff wheeled me away from the room and my family, I remember having tears in my eyes as I looked back at their faces. I felt scared for the very first time since I made my decision to donate.
I remember lying in the operating room counting backwards from 10, and then suddenly waking up in the recovery room. I recall looking around, feeling very confused and cold. The nurses had put layers of heated blankets on me and I was drifting in and out of sleep. Sometime later, a nurse told me that Evan was out of surgery and they wheeled his bed up to mine so we could see each other.
The following days were spent recovering. Evan came to my room to visit a lot and ironically, he was up and about quicker than I. Despite being sore, I boarded a plane seven days after the surgery to come home.
The hospital staff did a great job preparing me for what to expect both during and after the surgery. My family was kept informed throughout the surgeries, which really eased their minds.
While I felt relieved to have found a good match with Mary, I also worried about her. After she was brought into surgery, I had to wait several difficult hours until I was told that she was fine. Then it was my turn. The rest is all a bit of a blur until I woke up in recovery next to Mary.
A nurse told me the surgery went well and I remember feeling a huge sense of relief and happiness. Once I was discharged from the hospital, my parents and I remained in the Halifax area while the doctors regulated my anti-rejection medication. We returned to St. John’s just before the New Year.
I have not had any notable complications since undergoing the transplant and am so grateful to have had the option of kidney donation as a form of treatment.
I can’t believe it’s been 15 years!
Fast-forward to 2016
Mary is living a healthy, active life and has had no negative side effects from having donated her kidney. Evan continues to lead a healthy, active lifestyle, working at a job in healthcare. He has lots of energy and very few limitations.
Most importantly, Evan and Mary have an unmistakable bond and share a special connection that is indescribable.
They encourage each and every person to be an organ donor if given the opportunity. ■
April 17-23, 2016 is Organ Donor Awareness week. Did you know you can now register to be an organ donor through your MCP card? Visit the Department of Health and Community Services’ website.
To learn more about organ donation, visit the Eastern Health website.
This story was written by Mary and Evan, a local sister and brother whose lives were brought closer together through organ donation and transplantation.