Opportunity of a lifetime

Penticton couple a living example of the benefits of kidney donation

Terry and Laura Craig relax for a moment with pet Sparta during a walk in the Japanese Gardens recently. Terry donated one of his kidneys to his wife several years ago which changed the family's life. Thursday is World Kidney Day and the public can register to donate organs at Cherry Lane Shopping Centre.

Terry and Laura Craig relax for a moment with pet Sparta during a walk in the Japanese Gardens recently. Terry donated one of his kidneys to his wife several years ago which changed the family's life. Thursday is World Kidney Day and the public can register to donate organs at Cherry Lane Shopping Centre.

Looking at Terry Craig there is no way to tell he is a living kidney donor — exactly the message he wants to get out there.

“I had always wanted to do something to save my wife but was under the impression, because of my own health concerns, that I couldn’t,” said Craig. “Once I found out there was a possibility I could donate, there was no question. It’s been the best experience in my life.”

Craig is encouraging everyone to become a donor, whether that is through the living donor program or going to the B.C. transplant website and opting to be an organ donor after death. In 2005, Craig found out he could donate a kidney to his wife. The event was life-altering for their family and for him.

“Knowing that you get to save somebody’s life, especially a loved one, was phenomenal. Now I am trying to get the message out that, ‘look, this is what you can do after you donate a kidney.’ This summer I am doing the Ultraman. I thought this is a good way to show people that you can donate a kidney, but still do these ridiculous physical feats,” said Craig, who qualified for the three-day event this August in Penticton where competitors complete a 10-kilometre swim, 420.2-km bike ride and 84.3-km run.

Unfortunately for the family, Craig’s wife Laura caught a virus about five years after her husband’s kidney was transplanted into her. Her immune system tried to fight the strong virus she caught, and while looking for the foreign bodies, it found the transplanted kidney and declared war on it.

She now is down to about five per cent function and is on nightly dialysis while on the waiting list for a kidney — one that could take up to 10 years before her name gets called. Laura said she was fortunate that she had five “good years” with her husband’s kidney where she got to do normal things with her family and travel. While the average transplant can last 18 years, Laura said some people’s bodies can reject them immediately or, like one gentleman she knows, have a transplant continue to function for going on 24 years. The years Laura did have a functioning kidney is something she is very grateful for.

“I could start doing things with the kids. I remember I got on a bike and was riding around and my daughter, who was six at the time, had no idea I could ride a bike. When you go through kidney failure you become really tired and it is tough to do all those kinds of things. I couldn’t teach her how to ride a bike, running up and down behind her was too much for me,” said Laura.

According to the Kidney Foundation of Canada, over 300 patients are currently waiting for a living or cadaver kidney transplant and thousands of patients with chronic kidney disease are on dialysis treatment. Traditionally, live kidney donor transplants have been from a living related donor; this practice has evolved to include donors who have a pre-existing relationship with the recipient, and now to a pilot program researching living anonymous donors. A kidney transplant provides a patient with the best chance to return to a normal life, free from the restrictions of dialysis.

The surgical incision causes a scar approximately 10 inches in length on either the right or left side of the body, along the lower rib cage. The recovery time is approximately six to eight weeks.

“Emotionally you can feel a lot of guilt because somebody has to go through that on your behalf. Terry looks at it as one of the most positive events in his life. He is an amazing guy,” said Laura. “He gave me an amazing gift. It is something that changes a person’s life. Not only that, it caused a ripple effect. It changed the quality of life for our children, I was able to go back to work, and I work with autistic kids so I was able to change some lives there. He really is a miracle.”

World Kidney Day is on Thursday and a display is being set up in the centre court at Cherry Lane shopping centre with the goal to register as many people as possible to be organ donors. Organizers said the booth will be set up from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and for people to remember to bring their B.C. Care Card.