SUMMERSIDE — It was the gift of life that came from his little sister.
© Nancy MacPhee/Journal Pioneer
Linda Thomson, left, Matt MacFarlane and Anne Christopher are getting ready for the annual Give the Gift of Life Walk, Sunday, Sept. 29, in Summerside. The event takes place at Sobeys with registration at 1 p.m. and the walk at 2. To register online, visit www.kidney.ca/atlantic/walks or, for a pledge sheet, contact Linda at 888-5633 or email email@example.com.
And, for that gift, Matt MacFarlane is forever grateful.
MacFarlane was 14 years old when his kidneys began to fail.
Now, at 38, he’s living a healthy, productive life, thanks to his sister who, 12 years ago, donated her kidney.
In fact, all three of MacFarlane’s sisters were matches to donate.
It was Rosie, because of her youth, who was selected.
“That’s a gift of life,” said the Summerside lawyer. “I had three sisters and they all lined up to be tested and they were all excellent candidates. They were all fighting over who was going to give me a kidney.”
But that’s not the case for most Islanders awaiting a kidney transplant.
Currently there are almost 90 Islanders receiving dialysis. Each year, about 10 Islanders have a kidney transplant.
“I wasn’t on dialysis. I was what is called a pre-emptive transplant,” explained MacFarlene, the vice-president of the Atlantic board of the Kidney Foundation of Canada. “I didn’t have to experience dialysis, which was better — if you are pre-dialysis. You are just a healthier person. Dialysis is not the best treatment but it is a treatment.”
He and local Kidney Foundation volunteers, Linda Thomson and Anne Christopher, know the importance of organ donation and events such as the upcoming fourth annual ‘Give the Gift of Life Walk’ in supporting the foundation’s work.
The event takes place Sunday, Sept. 29, at the Summerside Sobeys, with registration at 1 p.m. and the walk at 2.
“The money is used in the region for patient services and financial assistance, transportation costs,” explained MacFarlane of the almost $3,000 raised each year. “We do provide amenities to dialysis units and patient comfort items for the dialysis units, but the money would usually go for people who need to travel to Halifax for appointments and checkups — transportation costs, Confederation Bridge fees, gas, restaurants.”
Christopher, who started volunteering with the foundation two years ago, has experienced first-hand the impact of kidney disease.
She watched her father-in-law suffer from the disease then pass away.
“It was horrible watching a big man dwindle down to nothing over a period of maybe five years,” said Christopher.
For Thomson, she is eagerly awaiting the call to go under the knife and give a kidney to her brother, Terry.
“I can’t wait,” said the Summerside woman. “If they said tomorrow it is a go, I’m ready.”
Terry, who lives in Newfoundland, has been on dialysis three days a week for five years. A cancer diagnosis put a transplant on the backburner. Now, he’s been given the all clear.
“He’s losing weight and, please god, in the new year it will be going ahead,” said Thomson.
“The moral of the story is that the breadth of how kidney disease touches so many lives,” said MacFarlane. “I have a number of clients who will bring up, to me, kidney disease and, of course, I share my story.”
For MacFarlane, his sister’s kidney has provided a quality of life he didn’t know existed before the transplant.
“I was pretty sick. At the end of it, my kidney function was less than 10 per cent.”
He now takes handfuls of pills twice daily, something he will do for the rest of his life, to prevent his body from rejecting the foreign organ.
MacFarlane hopes, with the money raised at the upcoming walk, another person’s life can be made more comfortable until they get their kidney.
And, he added, maybe a few participants will sign up to become a donor.
For information, or to donate, contact Christopher at 436-8161 or Thomson at 888-5363. Pledges can be made online at www.kidney.ca/atlantic/walks.