A kidney donor saved this senior’s life

L-R: Kidney-transplant recipient Heather Martin after her surgery at St. Paul's Hospital, with nurse Kim Neypes.

When the phone rang that day this past October, Heather Martin wasn’t sure if she should answer it, as she was in the middle of work. But thankfully, she picked up the phone, as it was the call she had been awaiting. Thanks to a generous donor and their family, a kidney was available for her.

She needed to get to St. Paul’s Hospital.

“I took notes during that call but there were circles and arrows all over the paper,” laughs Martin. “It looked like it was written in another language.” 

At that point, Martin had been living with kidney disease for more than 15 years. Her kidney failure was discovered only because a new doctor she started seeing ordered routine blood work. It showed Martin’s kidney function was down in the 30s –  normal is above 90 – but she had no symptoms.

From there, the Cultus Lake resident was closely monitored. She eventually ended up on dialysis two years ago, and was thankful she was able to go on a form of dialysis that can be done at home overnight.

Kidney numbers were heading “downhill

“I was still working four days a week as a call-centre customer service representative while doing dialysis,” Martin remarks. “I was feeling okay, until the last few months. My kidney numbers were going downhill.”

Then she got that call. Within a day of receiving her gift of life, the active 70-year old was out of her hospital bed. Within two days, she was walking up and down the hallway outside her room at St. Paul’s.

“I have absolute gratitude for my donor and their family that they were so generous in a very difficult time. ‘Thank you’ can’t begin to encompass what I feel,” says Martin. She adds that the care she received from nurses, doctors and staff at St. Paul’s was so personalized and comprehensive she felt as if she had her own “concierge” service.

St. Paul’s post-transplant clinic looks after many needs in one place

“The post-transplant recovery process can pose challenges, especially for patients from out of town who must relocate to Vancouver,” says Erin Waters, Clinical Nurse Leader in the St. Paul’s Kidney Post-Transplant Clinic. “The multidisciplinary team in the post-transplant clinic work together to support patients through this journey.

We offer patients one place to address their complex post-transplant needs, whether medical issues, psychosocial support, dietary needs or medication questions.”

It turns out Martin’s donor was just one of 20 deceased donors who gave the gift of life in October. That is a provincial record for the highest number of deceased donors in one month. As a result, there were 72 life-saving organ transplants for British Columbians in October.

One organ donor case can involve upwards of 150 people from recovery to transplant, all working together to honour the decisions of donors and their families, and to save lives.

Jeevan Kang is one of the surgical recovery specialists on BC Transplant’s Organ Donation and Hospital Recovery team.

“We all know what our ultimate goal is and everybody works towards it,” remarks Kang. “Every time I am heading out on a recovery, I always remember that none of this is possible without the incredible donor and their family.”

Martin after her transplant, with her son and his wife

Honouring her donor by returning to a full life

Martin is now recovering at home and feeling great. At her last transplant clinic appointment, her tests showed that her kidney numbers are the equivalent to someone with two healthy kidneys.

“I am doing lots of walks now so I can get back in shape to go hiking. I am also a long-term Scrabble player and I play with a club in Chilliwack. They are waiting for me to come back,” she smiles.

“I am honouring my donor as best as I can by staying healthy and getting back to living a full life.”

Read the original story from BC Transplant here.

, , ,