Penticton kidney recipient proves importance of fundraising walk

One local volunteer for the B.C. Kidney Foundation is a walking testament to the annual fundraisers success.

Teresa Atkinson

Teresa Atkinson

As the annual Kidney Walk is being held on Sunday at Gyro Park as well as across the country, one local volunteer for the B.C. Kidney Foundation is a walking testament to its success.

“After waiting for 17 years, my life has changed from night to day,” said Teresa Atkinson about the kidney transplant she received on Aug. 30. “I have so much energy already and it’s only been two weeks.”

Finding a matching-kidney would be highly unlikely Atkinson was told, but through the Kidney Foundation’s ongoing efforts, the odds are continually increasing for those affected.

“They’re getting it down to quite the science.”

Finding matches has become more efficient through the launch of a national registry program, she said, as well as an increased rate of organ donation.

“They’ve doubled this year the amount of transplants that they’ve ever done in a single year,” Atkinson said, attributing the success to the national registry, and a new generation of ER doctors who are well-trained to speak with terminally ill patients and their family about organ donation.

“It helps the family as well to deal with the passing and the grieving, because in a sense a part of them is living on.”

Atkinson has always been an active member of the community, but for 17 years with kidney disease, it was often a challenge for her just to leave the house.

“Now I have energy – I could go dancing! I’m still pinching myself.”

Before the transplant, Atkinson was bound to near-daily dialysis treatment, which filters the blood through a machine from home.

“I travelled occasionally to see my grandkids, but couldn’t go more than three days without dialysis. Now my ability to travel is totally different. I could hop on an airplane and go anywhere I want and stay for a week, instead of taking a fridge-sized machine and a truck full of supplies to stay a week.”

Having the ability to travel for the first time since the 1990s, she’s excitedly considering taking a trip to Alaska, Nova Scotia and the eastern United States.

However, Atkinson is still recovering from the surgery and needs to spend considerable time in Vancouver. But instead of paying the standard $200 each night for the hospital room, a subsidy from Kidney Foundation sees that patients only pay $25 per night.

“That’s a huge contribution — there are people who could potentially get kidney donations that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to have them.”

Atkinson said she definitely would have been part of the local Kidney Walk if she could, but will instead participate in the Vancouver event close to where she’s staying.

After four months of lessening treatment, Atkinson will be back in Penticton full time.

“The treatment has gone from the big machine and all the boxes to a handful of pills twice a day, and that’s it. I can easily fit it in a makeup case when I go away for a month or two.”

Penticton’s Kidney Walk began in 2008 and offers a 2.5 kilometre-long track. This year’s event happens on Sept. 27 at Gyro Park. The walk starts at 10 a.m. and registration opens at 9.

“There’s always lots of fun stuff to do and you get a nice morning walk in.”