South Shore Breaker
I believe there are angels among us
We celebrate and observe a long list of special days, weeks and months throughout the year designated to a long list of important causes, all of which deserve our support. However, there is one month in particular that carries a significant amount of importance and that is April, or Organ Donation Awareness Month.
Why is this important? At any given time, approximately 4,400 Canadians await a lifesaving organ transplant. Each year, more than 250 Canadians die waiting.
One donor can potentially save eight lives through organ donation and provide tissue for up to 75 patients.
Things are bit different in Nova Scotia than they are in other provinces as Nova Scotia’s opt-out system goes against prevailing practice in Canada. Currently, organ donation in other jurisdictions is based on the “opt-in” system, in which individuals must sign up to be organ donors while they are alive in order for their organs to be harvested for transplantation upon their death. Whether or not someone has registered as a donor, by common practice, the next of kin still may have the final say on whether their organs can be donated.
In April 2019, however, the Government of Nova Scotia passed the Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act. The legislation was proclaimed on June 30, 2020 and was enacted on Jan. 18, 2021.
On that date, Nova Scotia became the first jurisdiction in North America to implement a policy of presumed consent for organ donation. This means all people in the province are considered organ donors unless they opt out. Children under the age of 19 are exempt from the law.
Even though the idea of organ donation can sometimes evoke an emotional response in many people because it often means someone has died, it is an important topic that deserves our full attention and careful, fact-based discussions. In the end, donating an organ or organs ultimately means giving the gift of life to someone else … maybe even someone you know and love, like a family member or a close friend.
This topic has become very personal for my family with a close family member having just undergone transplant surgery to receive a new kidney less than one month ago. Because of the importance of this issue, I want to share this personal story that revolves around my wife’s sister, Dale, and Dale’s husband Bruce Macleod.
While Dale and Bruce have lived in Langdon, Alta., a bedroom community about a half hour outside of Calgary, for the past decade, they both grew up right here in Liverpool. Both went to school here and held down a variety of jobs in the area until they moved west in search of better wages, as many Maritimers do. Both have large families here at home, as well as an extensive network of friends, so this is very much a local story.
They were doing well in Alberta until 2016 when Bruce’s health took a turn for the worse and his kidneys started to fail. He started peritoneal dialysis at home that year. Two years later. in July 2018, he started hemodialysis, which meant a complete change in lifestyle, with three trips to the hospital every week.
Unless you or someone you love has gone through this, you may not fully appreciate what this means to dialysis patients. Let’s just say your life, as you knew it, will be turned upside down, as you face many challenges that most of us cannot even comprehend. Those who experience it or have family members on dialysis, know it is a hard way to live, but thank goodness for medical science.
Bruce had to accept that the only way he would ever have a normal life again would be through organ donation and so his name was added to the transplant list. During this time, they held onto the hope that a match would be found. Despite a series of setbacks, in 2019 an angel entered their lives when one of Dale’s co-workers heard of Bruce’s plight and volunteered to offer one of her healthy kidneys if she was a match.
Now you have to understand that while they are all very close friends now, in
2019 Niki Kitcher had no personal connection to Dale and Bruce. She wasn’t family and had only just met Dale at work. Despite the fact that they were basically strangers, her offer was genuine and one of the most selfless acts of generosity I have heard of recent years.
Niki started testing to donate in 2019 and low and behold, it turned out she was a perfect match. With that, the donation process was underway, but because of COVID, the operation was delayed indefinitely. However, once the pandemic slowed down, the transplant procedure was put back on the table again and after more rounds of testing, the operation finally took place in Calgary hospital on March 23.
Today, Bruce says, the surgery has completely changed his life.
“It’s amazing to think how someone could do something so selfless as to donate a life-saving organ to another person,” he says. “I went from doing hemodialysis at the hospital three times a week for four hours each time to no longer having to do dialysis at all. Receiving this kidney has made me feel revived. I am not as tired as I was, my colour is better and my kidney function is now at a normal level. I feel so much better already in such a short time.”
To say thank you to this wonderful person who gave Bruce his life back seems almost inadequate. I mean, how do you thank someone who does something so sincere simply for the sake of helping another human being?
I have no doubt that Dale and Bruce have expressed their gratitude to this woman many, many times and will continue to do so for many years to come.
She is now an important part of their lives. What an amazing gift Niki has given Bruce and what an inspiration she should be to others.
When I hear this story, I am reminded of the lyrics from a song by legendary country music group Alabama. The song is called Angels Among Us and contains this chorus:
Oh, I believe there are angels among us Sent down to us from somewhere up above
They come to you and me in our darkest hours
To show us how to live, to teach us how to give
To guide us with the light of love
Even if you don’t know someone suffering from kidney disease or any of a long list of other diseases that may be destroying someone’s life, organ donation must be something that everyone should consider because a patient somewhere, perhaps right next door, could be waiting for you and that’s the view from here.