GRAND RIVER HOSPITAL, KITCHENER TAP AMBASSADORS

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. susan.mckenzie@transplantambassadors.ca

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. candice.coghlan@transplantambassadors.ca

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. peterw@transplantambassadors.ca

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! ccook@transplantambassadors.ca

linda willis for transplant ambassador program

Linda Willis

In January 2019, I donated my right kidney to my friend Lindsay. It is the best feeling to give someone their life back. Lindsay had kidney disease and was getting sicker, even though he was on dialysis. In June of 2017, just days before his wedding, he was told he had to go on dialysis immediately, he had no choice. That day, he started hemodialysis 3 days per week, got married, and had a couple of day trips instead of his planned honeymoon. After several months, he was able to change to peritoneal dialysis, which he was able to complete at home through the night. This helped for a while as well, but his health was failing fast. I had thought about donating my 'spare' kidney as I had several friends who were on the waiting list for a kidney. While walking around the Motorcycle show with Lindsay, I casually asked him, what is your blood type? When he replied A+ same as mine, I knew I was going to go through the testing, to hopefully give him my spare. After extensive testing, it was determined that I was a good match, and also healthy enough to give him a healthy kidney, as well as being healthy enough to be able to live a normal life with one kidney. On January 22, 2019 I was blessed to be able to donate my right kidney to Lindsay. My kidney started to produce urine immediately for Lindsay and was a perfect match. My recovery was the normal (with any surgery) 6 weeks of not being able to lift anything, and being tired, but I had to keep reminding myself I was not to lift anything heavy, as after 3 weeks, I felt so good. Lindsay is doing great and has his life back, able to travel, without taking all the dialysis supplies with him. I consider donating the best thing you can do, I am so blessed to have been able to give my kidney, donate bone marrow, leukocytes, stem cells and blood. My husband is a Heart transplant recipient, so I know both sides of the emotional roller coaster that comes with transplant work up and surgery. There is no better feeling than giving life to someone. I enjoy talking to people, sharing my story, and relieving anxieties about having a loved one go through the process of donating a kidney. TAP is here so you can have someone to talk to, who has been there/done that, please feel free to reach out to me or any of the TAP volunteers. lindaw@transplantambassadors.ca

peggy roth for transplant ambassador program

Peggy Roth

I have recently retired after working almost 47 years at Conestoga College. I have 2 married children and 2 grandchildren living close by and 1 grandson in heaven. In May of 2017 our 31-year-old son had kidney failure and he began dialysis. Maternal instinct took over and I was on the phone the next day making inquiries as to how I could be checked out to be his kidney donor. The process seemed very slow at first and it seemed we were making no progress as I watched dialysis seemingly sucking the life out of Jeremy. However, in late September we were able to see the co-ordinator at Grand River and once we were referred to London Health Sciences the process picked up speed. By January of 2018 I knew that I was an excellent donor match and Jeremy and I experienced the miracle of a successful kidney transplant in March 2018. It has given him renewed health and a much brighter future outlook. I don't feel a bit different and I would join with many other donors who say, "If I could grow more kidneys, I'd continue to donate." It has been an extremely positive experience in my life and I am excited to share that through the Transplant Ambassador Program. peggyr@transplantambassadors.ca

john deconno for transplant ambassador program

John DeConno

John is a transplant recipient. Bio Coming Soon. johndc@transplantambassadors.ca

debra anthony for transplant ambassador program

Debra Anthony

Debra is a living kidney donor to her husband. Bio Coming Soon. debraa@transplantambassadors.ca