At 73 years of age, Sid Adams has a new lease on life.
“I feel totally different about life. I have at least 10 good years ahead of me,” Adams said, reflecting on the kidney transplant last fall.
At this point last year, that outlook for the Vernon resident was very different.
He has been diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease is an inherited disorder, the fourth leading cause of kidney failure. He was born with it but never encountered any symptoms throughout his life until he reached his mid-60s.
“That is why they call kidney disease the silent killer. You may have it and never know, never have any symptoms,” Adams recalled.
“In my case, I had cysts that were growing on my kidneys over time, and they got larger and larger.”
When they were removed last year, doctors told him his two kidneys were each the size of footballs, weighing about 20 to 30 pounds each.
“It had quite an affect on me. They moved everything around in my internal organs. I was short of breath all the time because of the pressure on my esophagus, my stomach was protruding, it impacted my rib cage. And I was losing weight.”
Adams had been placed on home dialysis, meaning he was hooked up to the blood cleaning machine for 8.5 hours every night.
“It wasn’t too bad in that I could hook myself up each night and get some sleep. But at best dialysis puts a hold on your kidney deterioration, and for me that wasn’t the case. My kidneys were functioning at nine per cent capacity, and under dialysis treatment that decreased down to four per cent.”
Adams was initially positive about his kidney transplant prospects as his wife and four of his friends all volunteered to donate him a kidney. They were all a match, but failed to pass the medical qualifications to be organ donors.
“They were all of pretty good health so that was a bit of a surprise. But the reality is only one in 100 people who offer to donate an organ are accepted. Doctors don’t want to solve one medical problem by creating another.”
The life-changing moment for Adams came when he received a call from the daughter of a long-time friend in the banking business. Adams had worked for credit unions for 35 years, leaving his last job posting in St. Albert, Sask., to retire to Vernon.
Karen Coon, a Kelowna resident, contacted Adams in June of last year, saying she wanted to stop by for a visit.
When the two were getting reacquainted on the back porch of his home, Coon truly rocked Adams’ world, telling him they have a date together sometime in October or November at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.
Coon said she had already been cleared to be a kidney organ donor, and wanted to donate one of her two healthy kidneys to Adams.
“I just couldn’t believe what I had heard. It is one of those real moments in you life that you will never forget, to hear her say that to me,” he said.
“It was such an unselfish thing to do, beyond generosity. She gave me the gift of life and you can’t do much better than that.”
Adams said Coon’s decision was influenced by the loss of her parents to health issues she felt powerless to stop coupled with seeing his Facebook postings about the importance of being an organ donor and learning about his personal story.
Both went through the transplant surgery with minimal complications. Coon was out of hospital within days and has since dealt with the three to four month period of post-surgery soreness. Adams has faced no rejection issues with his new kidney, and has seen his stamina return.
“My mental comprehension was starting to slow down prior to the surgery, to the point where I didn’t want to be around people because I found it difficult to talk and express my thoughts. When you are not feeling good, you just feel bad, don’t care about things in the same way you do when you are healthy
“Now I can go out and work in the garden for two or three hours and not even think about it.”
His energy restored, Adams says he wants to start a North Okanagan branch of the Kidney Foundation in Vernon and volunteer his time to help others encounter the experience of being an organ donor or recipient.
“The bottom line is organ donation doesn’t go anywhere if you don’t have donors. It is so important. In B.C., about 24 per cent of the population have signed organ donor cards upon their death. They say if we could get that figure up to 50 per cent, it would eliminate the donor wait lists. So that should be our target in the next few years.”
Fundraising is also important, he added, as the foundation provides financial assistance for living donors and recipients without any help from government, important given that the transplant surgery is only done at St. Paul’s in Vancouver.
One of foundation’s important fundraising programs is the annual Kidney Walk held in communities across Canada, including Kelowna on Sunday, Sept. 23.
To register or more information how to participate, check out www.kidneywalkbc.ca.
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