On Tuesday, Sept. 20, it took three people two hours to dismantle and remove the kidney dialysis machine that occupied a top-floor bedroom in Shelagh Brennan’s Murrayville home.
A plumber was coming to take out the water lines and drain that had been installed with the machine.
It was a milestone moment for Brennan, who underwent a kidney transplant three months ago after an excruciatingly long wait, one where she learned how to do her own dialysis at home after it became apparent she wouldn’t find a donor any time soon.
She was told the machine would remain until at least three months had passed, to be sure there were no problems with her new kidney.
It has been a long time coming, roughly three years since Brennan’s kidneys suddenly failed, forcing her to make regular trips to hospital for dialysis, then to have the machine installed in her home.
Because people can live with just one kidney, it is one of the few organs for which living donor programs are common, but attempts at arranging one kept falling through.
Four people, one relative, two friends, and one anonymous person all offered to donate a kidney to Brennan, but none were a good match.
Finally, she was asked if she would consider a deceased-donor kidney transplant.
“I’d reached my limit,” she recalled, and said yes.
There would be one more disappointment, in May when she was called in, only to learn the kidney was not viable.
Then, in June, her phone rang again.
“There’s one drawback, you have to go to St. Paul’s Hospital” said the caller, not Vancouver General Hospital where her medical team was based.
“I said, are you kidding me?” she laughed.
On June 11th, a Saturday, she woke up in St. Paul’s with her new kidney.
“I was up at 6 a.m. she recalled. “I just felt great.”
All she knows about her donor is that they were on life support.
“I got a rock star kidney that was a wonderful match for me,” Brennan said.
However, she did have difficultly with the anti-rejection drugs initially prescribed.
“I got real sick and dehydrated,” Brennan said.
“It was a long road with the meds.”
It has been sorted out, and she is feeling much better these days. Her twice-a-week follow-up visits to the hospital have been reduced to every two weeks, to a local lab with a virtual visit with the doctors
Her husband, Bryan Frazer, is also feeling better.
For Frazer, who described the last three years as “hair-raising” it took awhile for the good news to sink in.
“I don’t feel I have to rush home when I have coffee with a friend [anymore]” is how he explained it.
“I just feel lighter.”
They are planning to do some traveling, “small trips” this winter.
Her advice to people in her situation is to join a support group, something she feels she waited too long to do, while he urges people to sign up as donors.
Shelagh thinks her mother, Joan Brennan, may have has something to do with her finally finding a donor.
Shortly before Joan passed away in May, Shelagh recalled saying in jest, “when you get to the other side, send me a kidney.”
“I still say it was my mom,” Brennan said.
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