Kidneys keep working quietly all the time. The scary thing is that kidneys can keep working until 50 per cent of their function is gone, but with absolutely no symptoms.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is increasing, but early detection can prevent or delay the need for dialysis or kidney transplant. It can also help prevent a heart attack.
The Kidney Walk in Vernon aims to raise awareness, money for services and research, and encourage people who want to donate kidneys and other organs to be sure they are properly registered.
“So many people say they are willing to be organ donors but they aren’t,” said Amy Litster, Vernon Kidney Walk coordinator. “They might think they are but there has been a change. Now you have to register online or fill out a form and send it in. People don’t like to talk about death, but you should discuss this with your family so they know your wishes and don’t have to make a difficult decision if that time comes.
“It’s not just kidneys. Skin, bones, eyes — all organ donation can change a person’s life. My boyfriend and I filled out the form together online. It was kind of scary to think about dying and what we would want done with our bodies. But it was a super-proud moment when we did it and we were sorry we didn’t do it sooner.”
People of any age — there is no upper age limit — can be organ donors and can specify on the form which organs they want or do not want to donate.
“A lot of parents don’t register their children because it is too hard to think about and of course you can only hope nothing will happen to them. But you do have to think about how you would feel if your child needed a donation. Then you would be grateful that there was an organ available,” said Litster.
“And for older adults, they can have organs that can be used because so many people take good care of themselves now.”
She knows people who are living improved lives now because of getting transplants and people who have died waiting for a transplant. People of any age can have kidney disease and there are more than 2,800 people in B.C. on dialysis waiting for a transplant. The wait time is up to five years and the wait lists for other organ transplants are also long.
The form for permission for organ donation is online at www.kidney.bc.ca. or by calling 1-800-663-6189.
“It’s such an amazing gift to give someone. About 85 per cent of Canadians say they would like to be organ donors but only 17 per cent of them are actually registered. We want to see that number get a lot bigger. The walk is at a grassroots level and we want to build it,” said Litster.
“We urge people to fill out the form. There is a space on the form to say if you do not want to be a donor and that makes your wishes known for sure and takes the pressure off your family. It’s worth it either way.”
The Fourth Annual Vernon Kidney Walk to promote organ donation takes place Aug. 21 at 10 a.m. at the DND army camp field. There is no registration fee or minimum pledge amount to raise and all money will go to the Kidney Foundation of Canada, B.C. Branch, and some will come back to the community for services for kidney disease patients. The event includes a 2.5K walk or 5K fun run. There will be entertainment, a silent auction and a prize draw for all participants. For more information contact Litster at 250-558-9491 or firstname.lastname@example.org.