SUNNYBROOK HEALTH SCIENCES TORONTO TAP AMBASSADORS

france laflamme for transplant ambassador program

France Laflamme

Sunnybrook Co Lead

France Laflamme remembers the heartache of watching her younger brother’s health decline. Claude was extremely fatigued, a common symptom of kidney disease. His diagnosis wasn’t a surprise. Kidney disease runs in their family, touching their grandmother, father and other sibling. After testing, France learned she was a match to donate a kidney to Claude. “There’s that moment, when you’re faced with the decision, and it’s huge,” says France. “My husband reminded me that I always tell people to live in the moment and think of who is in need.” France donated a kidney to Claude in 2014. Watching his energy levels return so quickly was rewarding, and feeling privileged and healthy, she knew she had to give something back. She became a transplant ambassador at Sunnybrook, volunteering in the hospital’s renal program by speaking with patients and families at every stage of their health journey. “There’s nothing like connecting with someone who understands what you’re going through,” says France. “To raise awareness and educate patients and families is so impactful. It brings me joy to be able to support them.” She explains that ambassadors aren’t part of the medical team but can provide personal perspective and answer questions about what it’s like being a donor or recipient. France says she often has conversations about returning to daily activities and recovering following a transplant. France’s prevalent family history of kidney disease also makes her story compelling. “I always call our journey a family affair,” says France with a laugh. “In my time as an ambassador at Sunnybrook, I feel I’ve formed a new family with the kidney care team and the many patients and families I’ve met along the way.”. france@transplantambassadors.ca

Christine Pisapia for transplant ambassador program

Christine Pisapia

Sunnybrook Co Lead

My name is Christine Pisapia. My story as a kidney donor started 30 years ago when my brother Serge was diagnosed with Berger’s disease and was told that he would likely need to go on dialysis in his 70s. Knowing that most people carry a “spare” kidney, I immediately told him he could count on me as a donor when the time came. Years went by until he had one of his kidneys removed due to cancer and, just like that, dialysis became part of his life in his late 50s. That’s when we all started witnessing the beginning of what I call “the dimmer effect” (like those light switches). The Serge we all knew as a dynamic, energetic, outgoing, social and adventurous man was gradually replaced by someone who had to do 5 peritoneal dialysis exchanges per day, had little energy and was anchored at home. This all changed on November 6, 2014, when he received my left kidney at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. Now he’s back to being his old self of 30 years ago (really!) and although he tends to think he is the lucky one, I know deep down that I am the one who got the bigger gift. I traded 130 grams for a boost in energy that is arguably greater than the one he got! This is a concept that, for the longest time, he had trouble grasping and the reason it was so hard to convince him to accept my kidney in the first place; but, thankfully he came around in the end. I benefited greatly from talking to two living donors prior to our surgery and I can’t wait to pay it forward! I am excited to be a Transplant Ambassador and I hope that our story will help demystify living organ donations for both donors and recipients.cpisapia@transplantambassadors.ca

sandy feilchenfeld for transplant ambassador program

Sandy Feilchenfeld

My kidney transplant story begins with my husband. After being a diabetic for over thirty years, his kidneys were beginning to fail. His nephrologist told him that within a year or so he would need to go on dialysis, unless he could find a donor. I asked if I could donate. Over the next few months, we both went through a series of tests. Luckily, I was a perfect match. So on a beautiful day in July, five years ago, I donated my kidney. It began to work right away and he felt great! Within a few weeks, we were both taking longer and longer walks. Since that time, we have enjoyed each other, many trips and spending lots of time with our six grandchildren. sandyf@transplantambassadors.ca

Claudia Morgan for transplant ambassador program

Claudia Morgan

From a very young age, I suffered from a genetic disorder called Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). This disorder caused multiple fluid filled cysts in the kidneys that painfully and slowly decreased my kidney function. After many years of battling with PKD, my kidneys eventually shut down and I was reliant on dialysis 3 times per week for 4 hours each session to sustain me. After speaking with my Nephrologist she suggested that my best chance for long term survival was a kidney transplant. I shared this news with family and friends and while several people stepped forward to be tested, unfortunately none were a match (including my mother). I became fustrated with the process and decided to share my efforts with my church. My Youth Minster instantly came up with a creative idea to reach the masses. "Let's make a video and post it to social media!" Within a week my video was posted on Facebook and within a few days it had been shared across the globe. It even went as far as Okinawa, Japan to one of our Church Missionaries, Valerie. Feeling compelled to do something, Valerie went to get tested and posted a call to action to all her fellow Christians. That very night the message touched the heart of a fellow Christian. That person was Julia (Valerie's sister), who was living in Toronto. Julia went to get tested and was a match!! On May 22,2018 Julia gave me a second chance at life and instantly became the newest member of my family. Today I give back because someone so graciously gave to me! claudiam@transplantambassadors.ca

Judi Percheson for transplant ambassador program

Judi Percheson

My Kidney Transplant story begins in the late 70’s. I was a young graduate on my way toward a successful career then out of the blue my health began to fail. After many hospitalizations I was diagnosed with Lupus, an auto-immune disease, which caused my kidney function to deteriorate. Ultimately, in 1985 my life changed dramatically. Seven years after my Lupus diagnosis my kidneys shut down and I began dialysis three times a week, four hours a day to keep me alive. My life became a routine of work, dialysis and sleep with not much else to look forward to and then in 1987 I was given the most wonderful gift a person could ever receive. My mother gave me my life a second time by donating her kidney to me. In a relatively short period of time after receiving my mum’s kidney I was enjoying life to the fullest once again. I got my much loved career back on track, I rejoined the gym, I met my future husband, I started travelling the world again and have tried to make the most of each day, ever mindful of my mother’s selfless gift. As though it was yesterday, I remember my mum looking at me only a few hours after surgery and saying, “I know my kidney is working as I can see that sparkle in your eyes that I haven’t seen for years”. Although it didn’t occur to me at the time she said it, that statement echos what other kidney donors have expressed to me. Donors describe the heartache and anxiety of watching someone you care about suffer and the elation and relief you feel when you see that you have helped give them their lives back. This May I will be celebrating receiving my mum’s kidney 33 years ago and my amazing mother, who agonized with me through all my health challenges over 10 years, lived to be 93 years of age and was never sick or suffered any ill effects from donating her kidney. For these many years post surgery, the rest of my family and friends watched both mum and I thrive and I know everyone close to me is truly cognizant and appreciates the importance of living kidney donation. My mother and I would have been so relieved and grateful to have had someone to talk to about the transplant experience 33 years ago so that’s why I wanted to be part of the TAP volunteer network. Kidney failure, dialysis and transplantation can be a frightening journey for patients, families and friends and because I understand that so well from personal experience I would like to be able to help someone else see there is a very bright light at the end of that tunnel. judip@transplantambassadors.ca

barb steinberg for transplant ambassador program

Barb Steinberg

My journey began at age 6 with my first kidney surgery. I was then stable for many years, gave birth to three healthy, fabulous children, travelled, skied, cycled, worked full-time in a private practice, exercised, etc. and enjoyed a normal, active lifestyle. By early 2000, my lab tests indicated progressive kidney failure. More tests, more meds, a special diet.....leading to a transplant in 2005. I'm one of the lucky ones. My two brothers, along with my dear friend Peter Seligman, came forward as potential donors. Peter won the lottery and wanted the surgery before he left on a ski trip. Fortunately for me, I would have been on dialysis had my surgery happened a day or two later. Do I believe in transplants? Do I believe in donors? Do I believe in living donor transplantation? You bet I do!!! barb.steinberg@transplantambassadors.ca

peter seligman for transplant ambassador program

Peter Seligman

Peter was a living donor to Barb Steinberg. Bio coming soon. peter.seligman@transplantambassadors.ca

The doctor who’s delivering kidney patients’ miracle babies.

transplant ambassador program

Dr. Michelle Hladunewich.

Hladunewich, who founded Sunnybrook’s Pregnancy and Kidney Disease Clinic, has made her name and career by managing some of medicine’s most difficult pregnancies. She has helped thousands of women who were previously effectively infertile because of their illnesses carry babies to term.
Read the full article here. . . .

March 14 is World Kidney Day: Meet the volunteers who make a difference

transplant ambassador program

March 14 is World Kidney Day: Meet the volunteers who make a difference

Mixed in with patients at Sunnybrook’s Kidney Care Centre are volunteers wearing green vests. The vests signify transplant ambassadors who have either received a kidney transplant or donated a kidney. These volunteers connect with patients at all stages of the kidney journey prior to transplant – from early onset of kidney disease to dialysis.
Read the full article here. . . .