TORONTO — June 2, 2011, was a day the Carr family will never forget.
“Not because it was our dad’s birthday, but because of the early morning call that our mother had been rushed to the hospital suddenly – going into cardiac arrest four times before learning that survival through the night was unlikely,” said Leah.
The next few days were a blur, but, despite the odds, Leah’s mother Suzan, who had not been sick prior to the scare, fought tirelessly to survive. Her body recovered, except for her kidneys.
Until recently, Suzan was on peritoneal dialysis for 10 hours a day.
On March 19, her fate changed drastically when she received a new kidney. Leah’s life changed as well, as she became a donor.
To facilitate the kidney transplant, Leah and her mother participated in Canada’s groundbreaking Living Donor Paired Exchange (LDPE). The LDPE, a partnership between Canadian Blood Services and transplant programs across the country, facilitates living kidney donation between patients with a willing but incompatible donor and someone in the same situation.
For a person requiring a kidney, receiving the organ from a living donor is optimal because it provides the best long-term outcomes for patients.
In Suzan’s case, Leah donated a kidney to a stranger in another city and her mother received a kidney from a stranger in Toronto.
“This is how the paired exchange works. There are a chain of people who give and receive kidneys across Canada on the same day,” Leah said.
After the surgery, Leah’s full recovery will take six to eight weeks.
“I can’t drive for two weeks or lift anything heavier than a laptop for eight weeks. Recovery will be a challenge, but nothing compared to the challenge my mom had being on dialysis 10 hours a day.”
To celebrate this life-changing experience, Leah and her brother, Devon, along with their closest friends, created a fundraiser for the Kidney Foundation of Canada on March 13, World Kidney Day. It was held at the Uptown Loft in midtown Toronto.
“It is important to spread awareness of kidney disease because one in 10 people are affected and you don’t hear about it frequently enough. A lot of cases wouldn’t be as bad if they had been treated sooner,” Devon said.
Leah and her brother initially hoped to raise $5,000 through their event. Their goal was exceeded within 24 hours. In total, the siblings raised more than $25,000 for the foundation.
“The public response has been overwhelming and amazing. First of all, our friends who formed the committee with us made this personal and about them as much as us. We are lucky to have so many amazing friends. The event sold out fast, and there were so many other people who wanted tickets. Well over 100 people donated, some that we haven’t been in touch with for years. This has been the most positive experience,” Leah said.
Suzan, who attended the event, said she was shocked that her children were able to find the time to organize the fundraiser. “I am amazed at the outpouring of donations from family and friends and everyone’s generosity. My children have always excelled and lived their lives giving back. I couldn’t possibly be prouder.”
She said she hopes the event brought more awareness to the fact that so many people are waiting for kidneys, yet so few organs are available.
“Hopefully more people will sign their donor cards or just consider donating as they would be saving a life. Many live with only one kidney.”