Being on the kidney transplant list in the middle of a pandemic has put a lot of weight on the shoulders of Sarah Newman.
The 30-year-old Charlottetown woman is the one of the honorary chairpersons for the 2020 Atlantic Virtual Kidney Walk on Sept. 27, one of the Kidney Foundation of Canada’s big fundraisers this year. And, she’s hoping her story will help raise some awareness and increase registrations.
Due to COVID-19, most of the event is being done online instead of the usual live walk in Charlottetown and Summerside. Participants will be treated to video presentations before they head out on their own walks, involving small groups of people, before returning for the closing ceremonies online.
“Even though we are going virtual (with activities), we are still walking for the same reason," Newman said. “We need money for research. We’re still trying to help as many kidney patients as possible. Just because the world is shut down doesn’t mean kidney disease stops.
“If anything, we need this more for these extra (health) measures and precautions that need to be taken for us."
By the numbers
Following are some kidney statistics for P.E.I.:
- 10 to 15 per cent of adults have kidney disease.
- In 2019, the Kidney Foundation of Canada, Atlantic branch, provided more than $18,000 in short-term financial assistance to Islanders and their families with kidney disease.
Newman, who has had kidney disease for 25 years, had a kidney transplant in 2017. Her father stepped forward and was tested but was not a match for his daughter. However, under a foundation exchange program, her father flew to Toronto and underwent an operation in which he donated a kidney to a stranger while Newman went to Halifax and received a kidney from a stranger.
Her transplant lasted about 18 months. She is currently awaiting another transplant. Newman said her doctors don’t know why the kidney stopped working, thus the need to pull in more research dollars.
“It’s been a struggle to get me on the transplant list. It has been a longer (wait) than it has been before. It’s been a struggle to do my normal tests that I need every month. It’s been a struggle to see the doctor, period, because, for a time, we couldn’t go in at all and now we still have to do everything virtually as much as possible."
Even though there hasn’t been community spread of COVID-19 in P.E.I., Newman wants to be as careful as possible. She hasn’t been inside any of the big box stores since March. Her four-year-old daughter, Jessa, is being home-schooled as an extra precaution.
“2020 has added fuel to the fire, but we make the most out of it," she said, referring to her immediate family. “I’m enjoying having extra time with my family and close friends. We’ve been more creative to have more family dinners at home or do more things outside. You just make it work."
Richard Fleming is the Summerside honourary chairman. His family has come together as a team, hoping to raise $5,000 on Sept. 27.
“I want Islanders to understand kidney disease and the impact it has on people of all ages,” said Fleming. “With the growing economic, psychological and health-related stresses impacting those affected by kidney disease, our kidney community needs your support now more than ever. I am so proud of my family for the support they are providing our kidney community."
Marlene Dorey, development officer for the Kidney Foundation of Canada’s P.E.I. office, said the organization has seen a significant drop in revenue this year.
Dorey said she knows the virtual walk won’t bring in the number of participants the live walks did, but they’re pushing forward.
“We continue our fundraisers," Dorey said. “Kidney disease hasn’t stopped nor can we as an organization. We want to be able to continue the programs and support and educational materials … peer support and financial assistance that we provide to our kidney patients."
Anyone who would like more information about the 2020 Atlantic Virtual Kidney Walk on Sept. 27 or who would like to register should go to kidneywalk.ca.