Laurene Wogrin is reaching out to the Chilliwack community and beyond to ask for a unique sort of favour.
“I have stage four progressive kidney disease,” explained Wogrin during a telephone conversation with The Progress. “My kidney function is dropping a lot. So, it’s transplant or dialysis soon,” she said. “My doctors have recommended transplant as the best option.”
Dr. David Lansberg, a transplant nephrologist at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, agrees.
“From a patient’s perspective, transplant offers a better quality of life,” said.
“They typically feel better, have more energy and abilities to do more things as they’re not tied down to dialysis. And from a medical position, transplant patients tend to live longer,” Lansberg added.
The 60-year-old Wogrin has lived in Chilliwack for nearly three decades, and has worked for the Chilliwack School Board as an education assistant for children with special needs for 24 years.
“I was diagnosed with kidney disease 16 years ago, and the nephrologist (kidney specialist) said I would be on dialysis in 10 years, (so) I’ve done pretty good.”
By taking her medications properly, not eating certain foods, avoiding sodium and processed foods, not smoking, and by exercising regularly, Wogrin says she’s managed to extend that prognosis by six years, “but my kidney function is dropping a lot … so the best option is to get a kidney right away.”
“For people who are 60 and otherwise healthy, (transplant) is probably the best option (because) in general, transplants are better for people who are less than 70 years old,” explained Dr. Lansberg.
In British Columbia, patients can wait for years for a kidney from a deceased donor, however, BC Transplant says transplants involving living donors typically have better outcomes, and allow some patients to skip dialysis completely.
“I’ve heard how tough dialysis is, and it sounds quite nasty,” said Wogrin. “You can do it at home or at the hospital. If you do it (at home), you have this long hose inserted into your body, and you have to pump fluid into your cavity. It’s really quite gross (and) sounded horrible.
“But right now I don’t have any energy, I’m feeling sick all the time, and I have to really concentrate on eating even though I don’t feel like it because I don’t want to lose weight,” said Wogrin of her current condition.
“I work full-time, and that’s sort of hard with my decreased energy and (while) dealing with all of this, so it would be great if somebody would do this for me.”
Given a letter from the transplant clinic to distribute amongst friends and family, Wogrin sadly admits she’s come up empty-handed. “I have two sisters: one is diabetic and can’t donate, and the other one doesn’t want to, (and) it’s a no-go for (my three kids) … so I’m just really hoping somebody (from the community will) come forward to be tested.”
Living kidney donors aren’t required to be relatives, but there does need to be some biological similarities to lessen the risk of rejection. Interested donors will first go through a pre-screening process, then their blood and tissues will be tested for compatibility before meeting with the transplant team, who will conduct evaluations and medical imaging prior to surgery.
“We’re extremely careful (with the health of our donors),” said Lansberg. “We ensure they have excellent health and kidney function in their remaining kidney to function to last the rest of their life. The long-term outcome and safety is very, very good.”
And while donors usually spend two to four nights in hospital, and may require several weeks of additional rest time at home, Lansberg says the surgery can often be done laparoscopically, meaning “the recovery time for donating a kidney is quite quick,” because the surgery itself is as safe as taking out a gallbladder.
Also, because The Kidney Foundation of Canada believes living “donation is an act of altruism … and should not be a financial burden to (donors),” they have the Living Organ Donor Expense Reimbursement Program (LODERP) that can help assist with expenses related to organ donation, including travel, accommodations, parking, meals, and loss of income.
Of every five or six people who register to be donors, Lansberg says, on average, only one of those will be matched with a patient. But to help increase the likelihood of finding a living donor, Canadian Blood Services has the Kidney Paired Donation program, which “finds and facilitates medically compatible kidney transplants through chains of donor exchanges from medically incompatible pairs.”
“Not everybody is willing (to donate), but people do and can, and my goal is to get the word out (that anyone can donate,” said Lansberg. “The act of donation requires commitment and generosity, but for donors (I’ve met), there are very few things in life people can do that’s as potentially as rewarding as donating an organ.”
So, with a complete understanding of the monumental nature of the favour she’s asking, Wogrin is willing to meet with anyone who’s interested in being tested as a possible kidney donor. To make contact with Laurene Wogrin, email her at L_Wogrin@hotmail.com, or call Sarah Gawdin at 604-702-5575, who will pass along your contact information.
If you would like to explore kidney donation, contact the Donor Nurse Coordinator at Vancouver General Hospital at 604-875-5182, or visit the BC Transplant website at Transplant.bc.ca.