‘A world of difference’
Tillsonburg walks to raise money for kidney disease research, programs
About 45 people set out from Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital on Sunday with a goal of raising $5,000 for the Kidney Foundation of Canada with Tillsonburg’s annual Kidney Foundation Walk.
Not including what Sunday’s walk generated, the event has raised more than $32,000 since it was brought to Tillsonburg a few years ago.
“For a small community, we do pretty well (with fundraising) compared to larger centres,” said Greg D’Hulster, chair of the walk for the past seven years.
The money raised goes to kidney disease research and programs that support people living with kidney disease.
D’Hulster’s son, Dylan D’Hulster, was born with kidney problems and initially had to go to a pediatric dialysis unit in London three times each week, which took more than seven hours.
Even for people from the Tillsonburg area being treated in Woodstock it still took about five hours plus driving time, Greg D’Hulster said.
In 2000, D’Hulster donated one of his kidneys to his son, which lasted five years.
“It petered out on him,” D’Hulster said, explaining that his kidney wasn’t a perfect match.
Dylan and Ed DeSutter got the ball rolling to bring a satellite dialysis unit to Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital through community fundraising and government support.
“It just makes a world of difference,” said Greg D’Hulster about having the satellite unit in Tillsonburg. “It’s more convenient for people.”
After going back on dialysis, Dylan received a second kidney transplant.
Greg D’Hulster said the second kidney “worked fantastic,” but Dylan had a weakened immune system due to the anti-rejection medication he was taking following the transplant and contracted viral pneumonia.
Three years ago, on the day after his 19th birthday, Dylan went into the hospital where he spent 12 weeks before he succumbed to the pneumonia.
Dylan was a Toronto Maple Leafs fan and many of the participants in Sunday’s two kilometre and five kilometre walk routes sported a Leafs jersey in his memory.
Money raised from the walk that is supporting research is making a difference, Greg D’Hulster said.
“Things have certainly come a long way as far as transplants and rectifying kidney disease,” he said.
Fundraising for kidney disease isn’t as high profile as it is for other diseases because kidney disease isn’t visible, said Rizwana Ramzanali, fund development officer with the London Chapter of the Kidney Foundation of Canada.
“It doesn’t get diagnosed until your kidney function is really, really low,” she said. “You can walk around, you can work and have kidney disease and not know it.”
Dialysis is the only treatment for kidney disease until a transplant is possible.
“Ontario does really well,” ramzanali said. “living donation is on the rise because people realize they can function well with one kidney. (but) the need for kidneys continues to rise because of kidney disease.”
She said kidney transplants are happening sooner today than they were a decade ago.
Still it can take two to five years to find a suitable match.
Riamzanali said there are more than 1,500 people awaiting organ transplants and more than half of them need a kidney. tori anger is one of them. a 30-year-old simcoe resident, anger said kidney disease has made her sick all her life and caused her to spend a year in hospital when she was young.
Following a surgery when she was in grade 9, her kidney function “kept going down.”
She had her right kidney removed more than two years ago and her left kidney is functioning at 11%.
Anger is on dialysis at home for eight hours every night.
She said has had five people step forward to be tested as living kidney donors and is still waiting for a match.
More people are being tested as potential donors, she said, but testing can take up to six months.
She said she began participating in the tillsonburg Kidney Foundation Walk last year after reading about it on social media.
She encouraged people who haven’t been tested to be living donors to do so.
“There are people out there who need you.”
The 2nd annual Tillsonburg Zombie Adventure is Saturday, Sept. 23. Presented by the Tillsonburg & Area Optimist Club (tillsonburg zombieadventu re.com for tickets).