Or­gans a per­fect match

Sis­ters share im­pact of kid­ney trans­plant and im­por­tance of be­ing a donor

Cape Breton Post - - PROVINCE - DAVE STE­WART dave.ste­wart @the­guardian.pe.ca @PEIGuardia­n /@DveSte­wart

HAL­I­FAX — A Nova Sco­tia woman says she owes her life to her sis­ter from P.E.I.

Al­most 30 years af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed with poly­cys­tic kid­ney dis­ease, Ch­eryl Castel­lani, 53, of Ham­monds Plains, near Hal­i­fax, re­ceived a healthy kid­ney from her sis­ter, Heather Blouin, 47, of Grand River, P.E.I.

The op­er­a­tion took place on July 23 at the Vic­to­ria Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal in Hal­i­fax. Just by co­in­ci­dence, it hap­pens to be their mother's birth­day.

Castel­lani strug­gles with her emo­tions as she de­scribes what her sis­ter's gift means to her.

“I get to thank my donor and show my donor how much this is ap­pre­ci­ated,'' an emo­tional Castel­lani told SaltWire Net­work in a phone in­ter­view. “What I do with my life will al­ways be in the best in­ter­est of what she did for me. It's over­whelm­ing when I stop to think about it. When I sit and think about it I re­ally do lose it.''

Blouin said she didn't hes­i­tate for a mo­ment to be her sis­ter's donor. As a donor, Blouin was a per­fect match for her sis­ter.

“It hap­pens only with sib­lings and only less than 25 per cent of the time with sib­lings,'' Blouin said. “It was easy. It was an honour for me to have been healthy enough to do this. Peo­ple make com­ments like, ‘you're a hero', but, wouldn't any­one do it if they could? It's not even a ques­tion.''

At the time of the op­er­a­tion, Castel­lani's kid­ney was func­tion­ing at about eight per cent. Her cre­a­ti­nine (the waste prod­uct that the kid­neys filter out) was over 500 (nor­mal is be­tween 60 and 100). Her cre­a­ti­nine is now hov­er­ing around 100.

Blouin said their fam­ily has a his­tory of kid­ney dis­ease. Their brother do­nated a kid­ney to their fa­ther 20 years ago and ev­ery­thing is still fine there. They also have a set of cousins that just un­der­went a kid­ney trans­plant a cou­ple of months ago and all is well there, too.

Castel­lani said her health has been slip­ping dur­ing the past 10 years. She suf­fered from fa­tigue all the time. Her goal was to un­dergo a trans­plant be­fore the need for dial­y­sis kicked in.

“I had bone pain be­cause your body chem­istry is off. My skin was itch­ing and was in ter­ri­ble shape and I felt like I had a sun­burn on my legs,'' Castel­lani said.

But, ev­ery­thing changed in an in­stant when she woke up fol­low­ing the six-hour sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dure. Her sis­ter's do­nated kid­ney was func­tion­ing as it should and all the pain and fa­tigue she had been suf­fer­ing from for more than a decade was gone com­pletely.

“It was as if some­body took a magic wand and all of it was gone. Like, it was gone,'' Castel­lani said em­phat­i­cally.

“She was danc­ing cir­cles around me,'' Blouin laughed.

“It was be­yond words,'' Castel­lani said. “I couldn't be­lieve it. I couldn't be­lieve how good I felt. It was the best I had felt, prob­a­bly, in five years.''

Through tears, Castel­lani said when she was al­lowed to get out of bed, she walked down to her sis­ter's room, want­ing to show Blouin what she had done for her.

“I said, ‘look at me','' Castel­lani said, strug­gled with her com­po­sure. “My mo­ti­va­tion was get­ting down to see her and show­ing her, ‘look' . . . it was so over­whelm­ing. I had my ap­petite back. I had en­ergy that I hadn't had. I woke up rested.''

Castel­lani said she and her sis­ter were al­ways close but a dif­fer­ent kind of bond has now been cre­ated.

“Other than my chil­dren, I have never re­ceived a gift like this,'' Castel­lani sobbed.

Blouin is quick to add it was a gift for her as well.

"Think about be­ing able to make some­one you love well,'' Blouin said. "That's a gift to me.''

Castel­lani said be­cause it was a per­fect match, she won't have to take as many anti-re­jec­tion drugs as most trans­plant pa­tients would. And, that means there will be fewer side-ef­fects to worry about.

The two sis­ters are hop­ing that by telling their story, peo­ple might give some thought to be­com­ing an or­gan donor.

Castel­lani said when she was in the hos­pi­tal, there was an­other woman un­der­go­ing a kid­ney trans­plant, a woman who had been wait­ing for a kid­ney for four years. That woman re­ceived a healthy kid­ney from a per­son who had died and the change in the woman fol­low­ing the surgery was iden­ti­cal to what Castel­lani ex­pe­ri­enced.

“If peo­ple (con­sid­er­ing be­ing an or­gan donor) could see what I saw no one would hes­i­tate ... to see a loved one liv­ing on ... giv­ing some­one this kind of qual­ity of life.''

CON­TRIB­UTED

Ch­eryl Castel­lani, left, of Ham­monds Plains, near Hal­i­fax, and Heather Blouin of Grand River, P.E.I., are not only sis­ters, they re­ally are the per­fect match. On July 23, Heather do­nated a kid­ney to Ch­eryl.

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