Saturday, July 28, 2012

Lucy the kidney, 10 years later.

Some people know about the story of Chris and I and the kidney named Lucy, but for the rest of you who don't know, here it is.

This story starts off innocent enough.  Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, but instead of he classic storyline of "boy loses girl", instead it can be replaced with "girl gives boy kidney and they live happily every after".  

When Chris and I met it was love at first sight.  I had just graduated from an intensive Musical Theatre program in Toronto and Chris was in the middle of film school.  I was 19 and Chris was 20 and we met in November 2001 on the set of a student film.  Everyone on set could feel the sparks, and I found myself wishing the shoot would last longer than three days.  Luckily we were able to be mature enough to exchange phone numbers and on January 3, 2002 we had our first date.  We went to see the movie Gosford Park and afterwards shared vegetarian chilli at a cafe downtown.  It was one of those dates you see in the movies where the couple is so in tune with each other that you know they are just meant to be together forever.  If it was a movie I am sure the audience would have been rooting for us.

It was around this time that I found out Chris had kidney failure.  He didn't seem sick though and never, ever complained about it, so we continued our whirlwind romance, not knowing the very near future held a very grown up decision for the two of us.

In March we headed down to New York City to visit my brother with a couple friends.  Chris seemed fine on the trip until the end when he started to feel sick and started throwing up.  His energy levels were still okay, and even after throwing up all night he came out sight seeing with us every day.  It wasn't until we got back to Toronto that we realized his kidneys had taken a turn for the worse.  Up until this point medically, Chris was only taking pills to try and control or hopefully reverse the kidney failure, but we knew if his kidneys were getting worse it was time for the medical procedures to progress.

The condition Chris has is called Interstitial Nephritis. He was diagnosed a couple years before I met him.  Up until his diagnosis he was always healthy.  No one in his family has this disease and they don't think it's hereditary.  He came home from a trip to California with his cousin Jake and his ankle was swollen.  The swelling didn't go away and one night it got so bad and swollen he went to the emergency room.  After a series of tests, and many hospital visits they realized he had gout, and shortly thereafter found out his kidneys were failing.  Chris was sent to Toronto to meet with a nephrologist (kidney doctor) and given the news that he would need a kidney transplant, and possibly soon.

No one knows how Chris got this disease.  If you Google it you will find that it can be caused by medications or infections.  I know Chris' mom Carol beats herself up about a possible illness that went untreated, or an allergic reaction to something that she might not have been aware of, but the truth is no one caused this and it never could have been caught or treated.  This was a weird fluke that an otherwise incredibly healthy kid was tossed a crap hand and now had to deal with a very grown up reality.

So when Chris and I got back from NYC he immediately went to see his doctor and was told he would have to start dialysis treatments.  Chris was set up with a procedure to create a fistula in his arm for the dialysis needles.  A fistula is created when an artery and a vein are connected for the purpose of dialysis.  In dialysis they take a certain amount of blood out of your body to clean it and then replace it back into the body.  This procedure must be done three days a week and lasts four hours each time. Not a lot of wiggle time left for a social life. We spent every dialysis session together, Chris reciting movies in his head, listening to music or reading and I made sure we had sushi or Subway sandwiches with extra southwest sauce to keep us well nourished.

Around this time Chris' doctors told him he had to begin the task of trying to find a living donor for his kidney transplant. In Canada the average person can wait up to eight years for an organ, and sadly many of these people die waiting.  We have one of the lowest rates of organ donation here in Canada.  Some of it has to do with the fact that we also have a low rate of automobile accidents and gunshot deaths, because a person dying from cancer or other diseases would not be a candidate for organ donation since their organs would be too damaged to transplant.  

The great thing about kidney transplants is you can use a live donor.  We were all born with two kidneys and the body actually only needs one to survive.  Poor Chris had the task of asking family and friends to think about being tested to see if they were a match.  It's already a touchy subject, but as a 20 year old kid it was a hard thing for Chris to do.  Chris is the type of guy who would not ask for anything and keep his condition to himself, so this part of the living donor route brought him completely out of his comfort zone.  People were tested and they all came back negative.

Then comes me.  Call it blind optimism, but I just knew I would be a match. I was tested early and I remember sitting Chris down and telling him that if I was a match he had to realize that he just had to take the kidney and thank me, and not to worry about the fact that his brand new girlfriend was giving him an organ.  Chris' sister Jen had also just turned 18 and was now old enough to donate and was tested too.  A few days after the test Chris got a call that both Jen and I were a match, with my kidney being an even better match than his own sister. See? We were a love match, right down to our kidneys. We named my right kidney Ricky and my left kidney Lucy. Sometimes you have to find the humour in the small things.

After a series of tests to make sure my body was fit for surgery and my kidney was healthy and easily transplantable, it was determined I would be a perfect match for Chris.  Lucy the kidney was going to be given to Chris for safekeeping.  My parents must have trusted my gut and already loved Chris since they never for a second objected the decision of their 19 year old daughter to give her boyfriend of 4 months a kidney.  My mom was even tested to see if she could be a donor.  Everyone wanted to see Chris get better.

Remember during this time we were also going through the beginning stages of our relationship, trying to fit in movie and dinner dates around our dialysis sessions and hospital tests.  Chris was hospitalized a few times for scary reactions to the treatment, including one time when he got so sick ,so fast he was going in and out of consciousness and I had to act on his behalf for all the emergency treatments that needed to be done.  Our relationship grew strong quickly.

On August 20, 2002 Lucy the kidney was taken out of me and transplanted into Chris at Toronto General Hospital.  I was in hospital for a week and Chris was in hospital for almost three weeks because he had suffered initial rejection that was quickly fixed by the staff at Toronto General combined with the staff at St. Michael's hospital.  Lucy is thriving and Ricky is working hard to keep my body functioning too.

Five years after the transplant Chris and I were married and chose to donate money to Trillium Gift of Life foundation instead of giving a little gift for people to take home.  It was such a wonderful feeling to see all our friends and family wearing their green ribbons on our special day in support of organ donation. 

So why share this story now? Helene Campbell was given national and international notice for her search for a double lung transplant this year.  I want to keep organ donation in people's minds.  Like Chris, you never know when you might quickly become sick and need an organ to live.  If we talk about donation with our friends and family it keeps the discussion open and it lets everyone know our wishes.  You can sign your donor card,  but if your family is in grief and can't bare the thought of your organs being given away, your wishes are overruled.  A simple chat letting everyone know that you support organ donation is all it takes to help out people like Chris or the thousands of others hooked up to dialysis machines who aren't lucky enough to have someone willing to be a live donor.

I also write this because this year marks the ten year anniversary of Chris' transplant and it is also our first celebration with a new little someone growing inside of me.  Yes, you can donate a kidney and still enjoy a healthy pregnancy.  The proof is my little boy kicking me in the ribs are I write this.  I think about his future and hope that if he ever needs an organ there will be people willing to donate one to him too.

Questions about organ donation? Trillium Gift of Life has all sorts of information, including the religious standpoints on organ donation (Spolier alert- they all support organ donation)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I won't get into too many details....

But there is this couple I know. Having an affair. And they think no one knows. Because, well, I guess they are either too smitten with their "lovers" to realize, or too dumb to notice.

It bothers me. Again, not to get into details, but it's inconveniencing a few people. Namely me on more than one occasion.

I've talked endlessly about the situation with a friend. We are both dumbfounded about the whole thing. This amount of effort going into this affair seems exhausting. I have no idea how they can carry on anything else in their lives with the seemingly endless planning that must be involved. Like so much planning there must be charts involved. Possibly secret logbooks of some sort.

So the question is really this: when does enough become enough? When does it become pathetic and sad? I feel any affair is immediately pathetic but this one....well. It's almost like watching good tv or maybe bad tv.

Happy Wednesday!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012


The funny thing about childhood is the memories we keep. As a child I remember there always being two kites in the trunk of my mom's car. Two kites for the two kids in my family. Two kites always ready to fly if the wind picked up. The funny thing is I can picture those two kites in the trunk as clear as day, yet I can't actually remember flying them.

Memories are a funny thing. I'm sure if I asked my parents about our kite flying they would have loads of stories about carefree days in the park, with picnics. Perhaps we flew them at the beach. But I still hold my memories of those colorful kites in the trunk of my mom's car just as dear to my heart.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Boston night walks

I've been to Boston many times, especially in the last three months when I average about once a week for work.

While on layovers I've done a ton of stuff: aquarium, JFK library and many visits to Quincy Market for food. I've wandered through Boston common and the public gardens, had a pint at Cheers and walked the freedom trail. I've even spent two delicious meals in Harvard Yard, eating burgers with the smarties.

What I've never done? Wandered just on the other side of Quincy to admire Union Oyster House, the oldest restaurant in America. And since it's so stunning to see at night it's really a shame I waited this long.

Happy Wednesday!


Tonight, while in Boston for work, I had the pleasure of going out for dinner with a couple pilots in the North End. Also known as little Italy.

For those of you who don't know Boston, the north end is really the place to go for food. Hanover street is especially beautiful at night since the street is lined with restaurant after restaurant of amazing Italian eateries. Tonight we hit up Giacomo's.

It's pretty easy to understand why locals and tourists line up in the bitter cold for a bite here. The food is reasonable and delicious and even though the place was packed, we never felt rushed to vacate our prime window seats.

My meal? Shrimp on linguine in a spicy creamy tomato sauce. Perfection.

Happy Wednesday!

Back again all over again....

So, in search of the name of a lip gloss, I just spent the last hour reading over this old blog. It actually got me pretty emotional. I remember all those daily ramblings so vividly and I am a little confused why I gave up writing....

I guess the main reason I stopped was because I became a nanny and found a lot of the day to day stuff I was now experiencing was not very interesting to outsiders. Would anyone care if little A or little G slept through the dog barking? Or that they started to say my name and it warmed my heart up so much it nearly burst?

So now I am a year into a completely new journey. We moved out of our beloved neighbourhood and are in the suburbs. I don't get outside as much as I did before and I never spend any time just going for a walk downtown. This makes me sad. I miss the old hood and wish I was still living there, although I love my condo.

So what is this inspiring me to do? Get out more. See more friends. All my knitting friends have now moved to different towns and we have to make plans months in advance. My job as a flight attendant means I am getting up super early, and often ending my day in another city. When I'm at home I just want to veg out on the couch in front of Netflix.

But this is now who I am, yet it's who I have let myself become. I no longer yearn for the workouts I used to do. I never see my friends. I'm tired all the time. I don't get outside because I am too lazy and have no one to meet. But I miss my old life and I promise to take it back.

Anyone with me? Anyone want to take back their better habit days?

Happy Wednesday!

The lipgloss was Rimmel Kiss Off colour First time, and it's still available on amazon :)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

10 days down, too many to go.

I have been refined sugar free and dairy free for 10 days. Am I insane?

Let's back up a little bit here.....I have been doing Booty Camp Fitness since January and ,while I have been seeing amazing results in my strength and endurance, my scale keeps going up. I have been reassured by my instructor that this is very common when you start to get stronger because your muscles are more heavy...blah blah blah. The truth is I stuff my face full of cupcakes, donuts, potato chips and chocolate bars. Daily. I am not going to be completely honest here, I used to eat so much sugar that it was vile.

Sammy Kennedy, the creator of Booty Camp, came up with a challenge that I decided to accept. For 8 weeks give up refined sugar, dairy and cut back on alcohol. Add one large salad. Along with 45 minutes of continuous exercise daily.

Why did I decide to do this? Here is why:

1)I have been working out like a champ for five months and I know my results would be better if I my body was being fueled properly. Better food=better energy.

2)I have been wanting to see how much I rely on sugar to keep me going during the day. How often am I actually reaching for sugar and not realizing it?

3)I am worried my bad eating habits will influence the girls I look after. Will they start eating cupcakes every day because they see that I do? Monkey see monkey do....

So, here I am 10 days later. I feel awesome. My energy levels are so high and I have lost 3 pounds. Until now my weight has only been going up. I am a little hungry but I am sure it will just take a little time for my body to get used to getting rid of the extra sugar.

Last weekend I decided to ease off the restrictions for one night. I met up with some friends at a pub and I had some delicious fried food and a few beers. The night ended early and I went home to bed. At 3am I woke up in awful pain. The fried food was coming back to get me. My body was revolting against me and it taught me a lesson. Do not eat like crap after you have been eating so well all week. I will never do that again.

Happy Wednesday!