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New hope for kidney transplant patients – Saskatoon StarPhoenix


MAY 23, 2015

After more than three years on kidney dialysis, Debbie Posehn thought she would be chained to the life-saving machine for the rest of her life. She felt weak, tired and cold all the time. She couldn’t go swimming or soak in a tub because of the dialysis catheter.

Posehn was one of the 20 per cent of patients waiting for kidney transplants who have highly sensitized immune systems and are therefore much more likely to reject transplanted kidneys. As a result, those highly sensitized patients (HSP) receive only one per cent of organ transplants.

Now Posehn and three other highly sensitized patients in Saskatchewan have received organs under a new initiative in which transplant programs across Canada teamed up with Canadian Blood Services to give such patients access to all donor organs in Canada instead of just those donated in their own province.

New technology also helps to make much more precise matches between patients and donated organs.

“With this matching program, we can improve those odds by finding those patients the best possible matched kidney,” said transplant nephrologist Dr. Rahul Mainra.

Patients in end-stage kidney disease are put on dialysis to keep them alive.

While they can live for years that way, the mortality rate is high. Transplantation improves that drastically, Mainra said.

The new program brings hope to 16 other registered patients who would otherwise be unlikely to find matches, said Rural and Remote Health Minister Greg Ottenbreit. He urged Saskatchewan residents to discuss organ donation with their families.

“It’s a very personal choice … When you have somebody who does pass away, the families aren’t always aware of the wishes of the donor (and) you have a bit of a battle and it’s a very short timeline” in which organs can be taken for transplant to help other people, he said.

Saskatchewan is currently home to 93 people who are waiting for donor kidneys.

Kidneys can be donated by living people, who can choose to give one away, or by deceased donors. One deceased person can provide organs for up to eight other people and tissue for up to 75 others, said Saskatoon Health Region board member Frank Lukewich. Last November, about 13 months after Posehn’s name went onto the national HSP list, she received a call on a Friday afternoon from the transplant doctor, telling her they’d made a match.

Six hours later, she’d travelled from her Nipawin home to St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon. She went into surgery Saturday night and awoke Sunday morning with a working kidney.

“It’s an amazing feeling. It’s wonderful,” she said.

“One of the first things we did was to go to the spa in Moose Jaw and soaked in a hot tub. It was wonderful.”

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