Thanksgiving means a lot to Spallumcheen’s Joan Froats.
So was she thankful for a full house of family and friends, and turkey dinner with all the trimmings, back in October?
Froats was thankful to John Byrne, a man who, in September, became Froats’ son-in-law-to-be and her kidney donor.
The Morning Star reported on Froats’ plight in a March 2020 story. She was diagnosed in 2014 with Granulomatosis with Polyangitis (GPA) and, in 2017, she was put on home dialysis. Froats was in dire need of a transplant.
“John is my daughter’s fiancée but I didn’t approach him about a transplant because I didn’t think it was my place to ask him how he felt about the possibility of being a donor,” said Froats. “He asked me one day what was going on with my health. He read on Facebook I was looking for a kidney donor and he asked what’s going on. I explained it to him and he said, ‘Oh, I can do that.’”
Byrne went in for testing in March and, in June, found out he was a prospect for being a donor. At the same time, many other people offered to be tested after reading Froats’ story, and a close friend of hers was also a prospect.
The two prospective donors were tested, Byrne was selected though neither were Froats’ blood type.
With a donor found, Froats spent the summer getting her body prepared for the transplant. She was tested until the end of August when she and her family were given a date. The transplant would take place Wednesday, Sept. 30, at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH).
“I was beside myself,” said Froats. “I had a feeling it was close but with COVID, they cancelled all elective surgeries in the spring so I thought this could go anywhere. When it came to having an actual date, that was quite a hurdle.”
Froats and her husband, Gary went down to Vancouver Sept. 28. The day before the scheduled transplant, Froats had to have a COVID test.
Transplant day, Sept. 30. Byrne went first and his surgery was about three hours. The same surgeon who removed Byrne’s kidney performed the transplant on Froats, which took about three-and-a-half hours.
“Everything went really well,” she said. “The kidney started to work immediately. That’s something that they look for because sometimes it’s delayed a day or two, but the kidney started right up. John’s kidney was in wonderful condition. His kidney was very strong.”
Byrne stayed in hospital for 48 hours, then went to recuperate at a condo near Stanley Park which the Froatses rented for Joan’s post-transplant recuperation. She was in hospital for five days before being allowed to go to the condo, which had to be 30 minutes away from VGH in case any emergency cropped up.
So far, there have been none.
Froats and Gary passed the time in the condo watching seaplanes land in the nearby harbour at English Bay, with a slight view of Stanley Park. Froats couldn’t leave the condo nor have visitors due to her compromised immune system and COVID.
Froats returned home to Spallumcheen on Nov. 25.
“I’m doing really well, no real problems,” she said. “The transplant clinic takes a great deal of care of you in the first two months. I had bloodwork twice a week and they regulate the anti-rejection medications in that time along with other meds.
“I have my first appointment with the Kelowna kidney clinic this week, and I’ve been having bloodwork every week since I’ve been home. I’m missing people with this COVID thing. After seeing not anybody that I knew for two months it was great to get home but with my immune system so low, there is no chance of me being out and about.”
Byrne and Froats’ daughter, Angela, plan to marry in the spring of 2022 .
In the meantime, Froats has warmly welcomed Byrne to the family.
“He’s an awesome young man,” she said. “He’s always been positive, such a generous person. His donation fits his M.O. to a Tee. I’m amazed he has the bravery and generosity to do something like that.”