susan mckenzie for transplant ambassador program

Susan McKenzie

Familial glomerular nephritis has affected my family for four generations. As a little girl of 5 or 6 I remember watching my Dad assemble his huge dialysis machine in the 1970’s. I learned early that kidney disease was two things: really, really scary, but also something that could bond people together in a life-altering shared experience. During my childhood in small town Ontario, kidney patients and their spouses came from near and far to support my parents and help them cope with home dialysis, and eventually a transplant which lasted 31 years. Fast forward almost 30 years later when I was diagnosed with kidney disease at the age of 32. My Dad was no longer alive to share his experience with me – and, if the truth be told, it was something my parents had tried to shield us from, just as I would try to do with my own daughters. After a decade on medication, and a year on dialysis, I received a new kidney from my husband’s sister, Marian, in 2010. I knew after that experience that I needed to do what I could to help other people struggling to manage kidney disease --with all its various manifestations and treatments. This desire to find a way to help was underscored in 2014 when my #2 daughter, Alexandra, was diagnosed with kidney disease in her mid-twenties and received a pre-emptive transplant from a kidney donor in July 2017. I know that having me to lean on and talk to made Alex’s experience easier and helped her navigate the best possible outcome we could have hoped for to her live the rest of her life. As kidney patients and kidney donors we are in a unique and powerful position to help others by sharing our positive experiences and learnings. That’s what TAP is all about.

candice coghlan for transplant ambassador program

Candice Coghlan

I was diagnosed with kidney disease on a random morning in July, 2008 as a crash start with no previous knowledge of kidney issues. I had blood work done one afternoon and by the next morning at 2am my mom received a call to rush me to the hospital. After hours of tests, a doctor came in and told us that I had end stage renal failure, that I was lucky to be alive, that I would have a surgery to insert a catheter into my neck, and that I would be starting dialysis the next day. It was a total whirlwind, especially at the age of 24. I was an inpatient for three weeks, dialyzing three times a week for four to five hours. I stayed on hemodialysis for a few months, until I was stable enough to move to peritoneal dialysis. At that point, my mother began her work up to be my living donor. On September 9, 2009 at 9am (9-9-9-9), my mother went into surgery and successfully donated her kidney to me. My diagnosis was never confirmed, but was assumed to be a hereditary disease. My mom gave me life twice and because of this, I have pledged to make every day count. Since my transplant eight years ago, I have finished my University degree, gotten married in Dominican Republic, travelled to Lesotho, South Africa, Costa Rica, across Canada, Czech Republic, France, Spain and Germany. I worked as the Director for a non profit called Bracelet of Hope, which supports orphans and families affected by AIDS in Lesotho, Africa and am now the Provincial Co Coordinator of the Transplant Ambassador Program, and Co Lead of Grand River Hospital's TAP. I am living my dream life, thanks to my mother giving me life, twice.

peter w for transplant ambassador program

Peter Wechselmann

About 20 years ago I was diagnosed at the early stage of kidney failure. Eventually in July of 2016 I started dialysis. I felt the positive effects immediately. Beginning then were several tests to assess my state of health to see if a transplant was possible. All went well and at the end of August 2017 I received a transplant at the University Hospital in London. Since the transplant I feel great and my general state of health is also great. I have my energy back again. No more afternoon naps required. Finishing with dialysis was mentally uplifting bouying my spirits. Now, May 2018, my family and friends say I'm back to my old self. I agree. This year in April I joined a team of volunteers who have either received or donated a kidney. The program is the Transplant Ambassador Program (TAP). Its aimed at sharing our personal experiences with potential recipients or donors and to provide awareness and encourage kidney donation. Often we can address their concerns which can go a long way in easing the process. I find my time at the kidney clinic to be rewarding especially when we are engaged in a meaningful way with patients. Being a TAP member allows me to give back in a small way for all the support I received. Our part in the process may seem small but to kidney patients it can have a major impact.

charles cook for transplant ambassador program

Charles Cook

This photo was taken the night that I came home from the hospital after my kidney transplant surgery in October 2017. Undergoing a successful transplant operation was a major milestone in my kidney journey. As you can see by the look on my face I was one happy man that night! Unfortunately the events which led up to that point weren’t always the kind which bring back pleasant memories. In January 2015 I underwent heart surgery which saved my life at the expense of my kidney function. The doctors put me to sleep in order to work on my heart and when I woke up I was on dialysis as a result of complications from the surgery. My kidneys were working fine before my operation. For the next 17 months I was an in centre dialysis patient. In April 2016 I received a heart transplant. 2.5 months later I was trained to perform home hemodialysis. For the following 15 months I ran my own dialysis sessions 5 days a week where I was patient, nurse and dialysis tech all rolled into one. On October 12, 2017 I got The Call for my kidney transplant. The next day on Friday October 13th I had my surgery. I now consider that to be my lucky day! I have had many rather interesting medical experiences in my life. So far I have lived to tell about all of them and tell about them I shall. As an ambassador in the TAP program I am able to share my experiences for the benefit of others. My goal is to do whatever I can to make it a little easier for the ones coming along behind me. If hearing about my journey allows someone else to have a better trip of their own then that makes it all worth it. Hang in there and just KEEP BANGIN!

john deconno for transplant ambassador program

John DeConno

John is a transplant recipient. Bio Coming Soon

debra anthony for transplant ambassador program

Debra Anthony

Debra is a kidney donor. Bio Coming Soon