Northern Ont. couple shares their story to show the importance of organ donation
A Greater Sudbury couple is sharing their experience with a kidney exchange-type program.
Last year, Kyla Roy discovered she needed a kidney transplant after medication for Crohn's Disease had a detrimental effect on her kidneys.
"In 2015 I started to feel not great," she said.
"A lot of fatigue, my hemoglobin was low, and that’s when my kidney function started taking a dive and over the years the damage from the meds had taken effect so it was a matter of waiting until my kidneys no longer functioned, until about last year I found out my numbers were low enough that I needed a transplant."
She told CTV News that although she knew it was coming, learning she needed a transplant was devastating.
"How do you ask someone to give you a kidney?" Roy said.
"And going through family, I wanted people to know but I didn’t want them to feel obligated that they had to get tested."
Roy's wife, Kristyn Pascal, immediately said she would donate her kidney. Roy and Pascal are both registered nurses and met working in an emergency room. Roy left the hospital and started working at Cambrian College teaching Practical Nursing and she said they lost contact.
They reunited in 2018 and Roy said she was upfront about her kidney disease right from the start.
"She right off the get-go was like 'I'll give you a kidney,'" said Roy.
Pascal said helping someone in need was always something she wanted to do.
"If I hadn’t of given it to her, the first person who came up who would have needed one, I think it's something I would have jumped at the opportunity to give that gift," she said.
Roy said she is grateful to have Pascal as a partner.
"To have someone who is literally willing to give a part of themselves for you, I don’t have words to explain how amazing she is," she said.
"I don’t think you could feel any greater love."
Pascal and Roy underwent tests to see if they were a match, but unfortunately, they were not.
Roy said her doctor then informed the couple about the Kidney Paired Donation Program.
"It's a phenomenal program where, if you have someone who's willing to donate on your behalf, they'll pair you up with someone else who has a donor, but they don’t match either,” said Roy.
“It's kind of like a kidney swap."
After numerous tests and lengthy trips from Sudbury to London's hospital, Pascal donated her kidney. She is currently recovering and told CTV News she is doing well, despite feeling fatigued.
"You do see a decline in your kidney functioning initially," said Pascal.
"It will take a few months, anywhere from one to three months to climb back up to your original functioning, The fatigue has been the biggest struggle, especially going from a place where I was completely healthy, active, and always on the move, always on the go beforehand."
She said that she believes there are a lot of misconceptions and a lack of knowledge around being a living donor.
"It's possible to live with one kidney and live a regular lifestyle," said Pascal.
"I can still play hockey, I don’t have to have any restrictive dietary changes. I'm essentially living the life I did before but just with one kidney."
Pascal added she believes many think their life will drastically change, but that's not the case.
"You can completely change someone else's life without drastically changing your own."
Roy is still waiting to receive a kidney. After blood tests, she said doctors told her it might be too risky.
"We had to make a decision to see if we were going to risk putting this kidney in me knowing there were extra risks potential for extra complications and more so rejections, or wait for another kidney to come my way," said Roy.
"So it was a really difficult decision to make. No one wants to turn down a kidney when you’ve been waiting for so long."
Pascal expressed how waiting is the hardest part.
"The fact I already donated a kidney, that we had plans, that she was supposed to receive a kidney and you feel like the rug had been pulled from under you," Pascal said.
Pascal and Roy both told CTV News this experience has been eye-opening to the importance of organ donation and having those conversations with family.
"I have a history of working in the emergency department, Kristyn currently works as a nurse in the emergency department and we see lots of opportunities for people to donate and people often haven’t thought about it or family members haven’t thought about it," said Roy.
"So I feel this is a great opportunity to be aware of the implications of organ donation."
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