Cheryl Hubbard has been working in animal advocacy and rescue for the last 26 years. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)

Penticton charity volunteer in need of kidney transplant

Cheryl Hubbard has been helping the community for the last twenty years and now she’s asking for help

A Penticton resident who has spent years volunteering in her community is now the one that needs the help.

Cheryl Hubbard’s kidney is failing and she needs a new one as soon as possible. She suffers from IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger’s disease, where an antibody builds up in the kidneys, which hampers the organ’s ability to filter out waste from the blood. It eventually leads to kidney failure.

About 21 years ago, she received a kidney from her brother but that kidney is starting to fail.

“Twenty-one years, that kidney has lasted. Unfortunately, it’s getting tired. It’s very tired and I have had some side effects that have really taken hold the last few weeks,” Hubbard said.

“I’ve been doing well. We’ve seen a steady but slow decline in my kidney function in the last five years, but just the last couple of months, I’ve been losing about one to two per cent of my kidney function. So the bloodwork I’ve done last week showed that I only have eight per cent kidney function left.”

Hubbard has been heavily involved in the Penticton community over the last two decades, most prominently with the AlleyCats Alliance, which she helped start. The organization traps stray cats, to spay, neuter and vaccinate them. Wherever possible, the cats are also fostered or given up for adoption. Her organization has helped communities from Osoyoos to Winfield.

But with very little energy and having to go through dialysis, she’s had to step back from many of the things she used to do with AlleyCats. She used to help with trapping feral cats and getting them medical care but as of late can no longer volunteer in that position and is acting as the group’s treasurer instead.

Dr. Jag Gill, a transplant nephrologist and the medical director of kidney transplant at St. Paul’s Hospital said receiving a new kidney makes a world of difference to people like Hubbard.

“It will completely change their lives… it eliminates the need for them to require life-saving dialysis,” he said.

“While (dialysis) is a great therapy that allows people to stay alive, it can really wear on people’s quality of life and it can make people feel unwell. It’s also a lot to do.”

Gill said he understands many people hesitate to donate a kidney because they don’t know if they can live safely with just one of them, but people should know that outcome for donators is good, especially when they are medically suitable to live their lives with just one kidney.

It is a rigorous process to find out if someone is healthy enough to donate a kidney as well as live with just one. There are various resources available to help make the process possible and easier for an individual to donate.

“Besides making sure they’re medically fit, we also make sure they’re psychologically in the right frame of mind, that they’re doing it for the right reasons. There’s a lot of care taken to make sure no one is coerced and that people are doing this out of their own free will,” explained Dr. Gill.

“If there’s anybody out there that finds it in their heart that they want to explore this as a possibility, it would make a huge difference in our lives,” Hubbard said.

For more information on kidney transplants in B.C., visit this link. To contact Hubbard, email her.

READ: Letter to the editor: Save the Shatford Centre

READ: AlleyCats in desperate need of foster homes

Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
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