My husband was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease in his early fifties – maybe it was 2005. This was a total surprise to us – we had no idea what it was and what the results of the disease would be. In fact we were shocked when Dr. Magner told us that his kidneys would fail and he would need to go on dialysis and if lucky he would receive a new kidney via transplant.
To back up a bit my husband did have annual physicals and may in fact been told that he had Polycystic Kidney disease but not what the disease was. We only realized the total effect of the disease once we went to Ottawa nephrology at the Riverside campus. We watched as his creatin levels continued to rise – even though he was very vigilant about doing all the things he was to do, eating the right foods, taking whatever medications that were required of him and continuing to consult with various professionals at The Renfrew Victoria Hospital nephrology department. I attended all of his medical appointments with him and kept a detailed record of all that was happening. Of course, this was not enough, and his kidney function continued to decrease.
Consequently, he started dialysis early in 2008. We went to Renfrew Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week. We both worked full time and had to leave work at 4 o’clock to get home, change and head to Renfrew to arrive for 5 o’clock. It took us exactly 40 minutes to drive from our home in Pembroke to the Renfrew Victoria hospital. Even our dog came with us. For the 5 hours that my husband was on dialysis I eat my supper walked the dog did some of my office work and of course spent a lot of time with my husband. I had to drive home after dialysis – this was very difficult for my husband as he did not particularly enjoy my driving – apparently I hit the same hole on the road every time – which I must admit I did not even realize the hole was there, he could not drive after dialysis. While this process was ongoing I and one of Don’s siblings (he was one of 6 children) started the screening process to see if we could be potential kidney donors. Both his sister and I matched equally as potential donors. We decided that I would donate my kidney for a number of reasons – I had sick leave and my sister-in-law is self employed and she also lives in Kanata and volunteered to look after him post transplant. I continued with the battery of tests that were required to ensure that I meet all the transplant requirements. Our day finally arrived on October 30, 2008.
All went well and we were both back home by Christmas time. For the next 8+ years my husband continued to be a model patient – he took his medications on time, continued to watch his diet, attended all his medical appointments and followed the instructions of his doctors. He had 8+ more excellent years – he worked full time until he retired at age 60 in 2012, he continued to play slo-pitch ball every summer, he was at CHEO with our three daughters when we found out that none of them carried the Polycystic Kidney gene, he was able to participate in the weddings of two of his daughters and also had learned of the upcoming birth of his first grandchild. He was also very involved in fund raising for The Kidney Foundation of Canada as part of The Sutherland team – we all participated in the annual Pembroke Kidney Walk which our family has organized for the past few years and we also run a very successful slo-pitch tournament in Pembroke in July to raise funds for the Kidney Foundation of Canada. In 2017, the tournament was renamed The Don Sutherland Memorial Ball Tournament.
WE learned so much from his journey with Polycystic Kidney Disease, transplants and The Kidney Foundation. I miss so much – just him being here beside me as I watch TV in the evening, going to one of his many ball games, our travels together, my phone alarm going off every night at 9:00 pm to remind him to take his pills, walks through our back yard, cutting wood all that involves in being part of a marriage. However, if it was not for transplant we would have missed so much more – I am grateful that I was a viable donor for him – it enriched our lives so much. Unfortunately, I found my husband passed away on the bathroom floor in the early morning of December 14, 2016. An autopsy revealed that he had died of a saddle pulmonary embolism. Comforting that he did not suffer. His first grand child was born on January 3, 2017. We would have been married 43 years on May 11, 2017.
I know that this is a long story…tears stream down my face as I write it…I have not put into words all that we had done together during our kidney journey since his death. Thank you for reading.
I am so grateful for our 8+ extra years that transplant gave us.
Catherine – Caregiver, Wife and Living Kidney Donor