Transplants boost quality of life

A little more than 20 years ago, during a routine physical examination, Bob Holmes’s doctor noticed some problems with his kidney.

A little more than 20 years ago, during a routine physical examination, Bob Holmes’s doctor noticed  some problems with his kidney.

Two years later, the kidney failed and Holmes was on dialysis, awaiting a transplant.

A new kidney became available quickly and Holmes was on dialysis only 11 days before undergoing transplant surgery. The average wait time is 10 to 12 years.

“It was really quite amazing,” he said. “I don’t know what words to use to describe it. I’m thankful.”

The surgery lasted around five hours and within two months, Holmes was able to return to work.

To cope with the new kidney, Holmes must take anti-rejection medication. Since the surgery, the dosage has increased and he must now take 20 to 30 pills each day.

“Right after the transplant, I felt wonderful,” he said. Since that time, the kidney function has started to drop. “I don’t feel as good today as I did five years ago,” he said.

The kidney is now at between 20 and 25 per cent functionality. While it is still usable, he said he is left tired as a result.

In addition to the medication, he also exercises regularly and has switched to a low-sodium diet in an attempt to keep his new kidney as healthy as possible.

The dietary restrictions, which eliminate Chinese food from his menu, have been the biggest challenge for him.

Still, despite the medications and lifestyle changes, he said the transplant has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat,” he said.

Frank Belden, another Summerland kidney transplant recipient, shares Holmes’s sentiments.

“I’ve got a new lease on life, all the way around,” Belden said.

He received his kidney in November, 2009, after his own kidneys failed in January of that year.

For Belden, the kidney failure was caused as a result of the medications used while he had waited for a heart transplant earlier. He underwent heart transplant surgery in 2005.

Belden’s wife donated one of her kidneys to her husband. Both underwent a series of medical and psychological tests before the transplant took place in Vancouver.

“They want to be sure the person who receives the donations is aware of how precious a gift it is,” he said.

After the transplant, the Beldens planned to stay in Vancouver three to four months, but the recovery process was fast.

Within 72 hours, he stopped using pain medication and in December, he was able to go back to work. They were back home in mid-January.

“I’ve had no difficulties whatsoever,” Belden said. “I’ve been so blessed.

Belden and Holmes will both be at the 2011 Kidney Walk in Penticton this Sunday. The walk is to raise awareness about organ donations, particularly kidney donations.

According to information from the Kidney Foundation of B.C., 85 per cent of British Columbians are in favour of organ donation but only 17 per cent have registered as donors.

Registration for the walk begins at 8:30 in Gyro Park with the walk beginning at 9:30 a.m. The event features a 2.5-kilometre walk and a five-kilometre fun run.

Those interested in volunteering, participating or donating are asked to call Laura Craig at 250-492-3141 or e-mail pentictonwalk@kidney.bc.ca.

Information on becoming an organ donor is available at transplant.bc.ca.

 

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