A nationwide kidney donation program has reached a milestone, and for one B.C. couple it has changed both their lives.
Husband and wife, Devan and Mandeep Grewal, were involved of the Canadian Blood Services-led Kidney Paired Donation program, with Devan needed a kidney transplant and Mandeep donating hers anonymously.
“For me, as a recipient it’s a great feeling. My wife wasn’t able to give to me directly, but she was able to give to somebody who gave to me. Without the program like this, who knows how long I would have to wait to get a direct match,” Devan said.
The program hit a milestone recently with 1,000 patients in Canada having received kidney transplants. The program was a collaboration with Vancouver Coastal Health, Providence Health and living donation and transplant programs across Canada.
Canadian Blood Services CEO Dr. Graham Sher said this achievement is a “testament to the collaborative efforts of living donation and transplant programs, health-care professionals, and most importantly the generosity of living donors who made the selfless decision to donate their kidney for a loved one or a stranger.”
At any given time, 4,000 people in Canada are waiting for an organ and 75 per cent of those require a kidney. More than 3,000 of those are on a waitlist for kidney transplantation and hundreds die each year.
The Kidney Paired Donation program connects living donor programs across the country, “enabling them to achieve together what no jurisdiction can do exclusively on its own.” A living donor kidney transplant lasts, on average, 21 years compared to 11 years for a deceased donor kidney transplant.
Launched in 2009, the program uses a “sophisticated matching algorithm” to identify compatible transplant opportunities created through chains of paired donations from otherwise incompatible pairs.
It’s what Mandeep was able to do.
“We knew out blood types already because we had donated to Canadian Blood Services before, so automatically assumed that I wasn’t able to help donate to him until we had heard about the Kidney Paired Donation program and how it works.”
Devan was born with kidney problems. It was mild, but he was told he would need a transplant at some point in his life.
“I didn’t really let it affect my life at all, up until about five years ago when they told me my kidney function is declining and I should start thinking about asking friends and family.”
Two years after that he went onto dialysis.
Then earlier this year, Devan underwent transplant surgery at Vancouver General Hospital.
“Throughout this whole process, you’re never alone. You have doctors, you have nurses, you have a whole team behind you 100 per cent of the time.”