An Abbotsford man is going public with his plea for a kidney donor.
Joe Fast, who turns 31 on Dec. 20, is currently on dialysis four days a week, and his kidneys are functioning at five per cent.
Fast is one of the rarest blood types – B – and neither his parents nor other family members or friends are a match. His donor will need to be blood type B or O, which is universal.
He has been on the transplant waiting list for years, but no match has yet come through, and Fast said he is getting desperate.
“I’m at that point where I need to get a transplant because it’s like in your vehicle – when your battery’s done, you get a new battery, and it starts better. Without the new battery, you’re going to need somebody to jumpstart you,” he said.
Fast’s kidney issues began at the age of three and a half when he ate undercooked sausage at his grandmother’s house.
He developed severe symptoms that included bloody diarrhea, and it took doctors three hospital visits to pinpoint the source: The sausage he had eaten contained the E. coli bacteria, which ravaged his body.
Fast, who grew up in Abbotsford, developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a condition that occurs when the blood vessels in kidneys become damaged and inflamed.
This damage can cause clots to form in the vessels. The clots clog the filtering system in the kidneys and lead to kidney failure.
The bacteria also attacked his bowel, perforating it and resulting in emergency surgery. He also had a large part of his intestine removed.
Fast was near death, and the heavy-duty antibiotics that were used to save his life caused further damage to his kidneys.
He spent about six months in B.C. Children’s Hospital – including on dialysis – and, because he was dubbed a “miracle child,” his story drew intense media attention.
Fast had a feeding tube as a child and couldn’t participate in sports or other physical activities. Over the years, he has also had to follow a strict diet low in salt, liquids and protein, which has made many foods out of reach.
He said he always felt singled out, but he tried to fit in over the years. As an adult, he worked in construction and as an excavator operator, while trying to keep up his monthly medical checkups.
Two years ago, he was walking down his carport on his way to the store to pick up a few items when he fell face first and had to call an ambulance. He ended up in hospital, where he required several blood transfusions and was on life support.
At one point, he said he had an out-of-body experience, looking down on himself as doctors worked to bring him back to life.
It was at this point that he was told his kidney function was at only four or five per cent. Fast has been on dialysis four days a week for four hours at a time ever since.
He says he would love to experience a normal life where he is not fatigued every day – he says he can only walk about half a block before needing to use his powered wheelchair – and he can eat some the foods he is currently denied.
Fast also thinks about maybe starting a family of his own in the future, and he’s keen to do what he can to make that happen.
“I’m at the point now where there’s a problem and there’s a solution, so how do I get to the solution?” he said.
Fast points out that the Kidney Foundation of Canada offers a reimbursement program that covers expenses associated with being a live organ donor, including loss of wages, accommodation and travel costs.
Fast can be reached at 778-685-3071. Those interested in becoming a donor for Fast or who want more information can also contact the donor nurse through the Living Kidney Donor Program at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver at 604-806-9027 (toll-free 1-877-922-9822) or firstname.lastname@example.org.