We have the gift of life within us this Christ­mas

PressReader - LStep Channel - We have the gift of life within us this Christ­mas
Christ­mas for many Metis and First Na­tions peo­ple is a time of stress and sad­ness. Over the past year we have said farewell to friends and rel­a­tives who have left us be­cause of chronic dis­eases like cancer or di­a­betes. For oth­ers, the fu­ture is hazy and some feel that this may be an­other loved one’s last Christ­mas.We don’t have to give up. We need to ed­u­cate our­selves about the rea­sons th­ese chronic dis­eases ex­ist and if we can’t pre­vent them how we can sur­vive through treat­ment and or­gan trans­plants.For three years now, Mon­ica Goulet has been wait­ing for a kid­ney trans­plant. Now she has a po­ten­tial match and the op­er­a­tion could take place in sev­eral months.It has been a long, hard road for Mon­ica. She was 26 when she found out that she only had one func­tion­ing kid­ney. She grew up in north­ern Saskatchewan and the lo­cal health-care staff never re­al­ized that she was born with a ge­netic de­fect that made one kid­ney at­ro­phy and placed ad­di­tional stress on the other one.While Mon­ica’s case is unique, her plight is not. The di­a­betes epi­demic that is sweep­ing across In­dian coun­try has dev­as­tated the health of Indige­nous peo­ple. Kid­ney fail­ure is one of the out­comes faced by long-term di­a­bet­ics and dial­y­sis is the re­lent­less re­sult.When the kid­ney func­tion falls to less than 10 per cent, dial­y­sis is the in­evitable re­sult. Dial­y­sis can be time con­sum­ing — the av­er­age time can be five hours, and if you cou­ple that with a two-hour drive from a re­serve, two or three times a week, there is lit­tle time left in some­one’s life for any­thing else. The only “cure” is a kid­ney trans­plant.When it comes to or­gan trans­plants, the blood type must match. An in­ter­est­ing asideWe need to re­turn to our tra­di­tional diet, which was high in pro­tein and low in starches.here is that a ma­jor­ity of Indige­nous peo­ple from both North and South Amer­ica have type O blood. Type O is con­sid­ered the univer­sal donor, but peo­ple with type O can only ac­cept an or­gan from a type O donor.The fact that Indige­nous peo­ples of the Amer­i­cas have a pre­pon­der­ance of type O blood is an in­di­ca­tion of how closely we must be re­lated; we must have come from a sin­gle pop­u­la­tion at one time.For in­di­vid­u­als with leukemia and other kinds of can­cers, a bone-mar­row trans­plant may be the only way of im­prov­ing the pa­tient’s chances of sur­vival. A bone-mar­row trans­plant will in­ject healthy stem cells into the af­flicted per­son and re­verse can­cers such as leukemia.Bone mar­row trans­plants are even more dif­fi­cult and ge­net­i­cally re­lated to hered­ity. The best match is a sib­ling or a close rel­a­tive. To get a close match suit­able for a bone mar­row do­na­tion, Indige­nous peo­ple should have a donor who is also Indige­nous.In Canada there is a des­per­ate need for Abo­rig­i­nal bone mar­row donors. If you are be­tween the ages of 17 and 59 and are in good health, you should qual­ify. If you want to regis­ter, go to the Cana­dian Blood Ser­vices web­site and look for the in­for­ma­tion pack­age and regis­tra­tion form.The need for or­gan dona­tions is great­est in the Indige­nous com­mu­nity. Di­a­betes turn­ing up in peo­ple 20-30 years old is cre­at­ing more pres­sure for kid­ney or heart trans­plants in the fu­ture.But the ac­tion that is re­quired is in our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. Chil­dren must be taught about healthy liv­ing, in­clud­ing proper diet and reg­u­lar ex­er­cise. We need to re­turn to our tra­di­tional diet, which was high in pro­tein and low in starches such as pota­toes and ban­nock.Re­serve stores and gas sta­tions must of­fer healthy al­ter­na­tives in­stead of su­gar drinks and junk food. They should take the slurpee ma­chines and throw them out.So, let’s not give up. This Christ­mas, con­sider giv­ing the gift of life. To be­gin, you can put the donor sticker on your health card. If you feel that you qual­ify, regis­ter as a stem cell donor with Cana­dian Blood Ser­vices.The gift of life means that some fam­ily will con­tinue to have merry Christ­mases and happy new years. I know Mon­ica and her fam­ily will be thank­ful.

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