Penticton organ recipient still paying it forward

Three decades after being told he would die, local man is still living well with kidney donated by his sister

Grant Bogyo laces up his runners in preparation for this Sunday's Penticton Kidney Walk fundraiser. Registration for the annual event takes place at 9 a.m. followed by the walk and runs which begins at 10 a.m. from the start point at Riverside Village.

Grant Bogyo laces up his runners in preparation for this Sunday's Penticton Kidney Walk fundraiser. Registration for the annual event takes place at 9 a.m. followed by the walk and runs which begins at 10 a.m. from the start point at Riverside Village.

It’s a good thing doctors aren’t always right, as Penticton resident Grant Bogyo can attest.

In October 1983, the then-28-year-old Bogyo went to his doctor to seek treatment for his swollen feet.

Having been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at the age of 11, he knew his failing kidneys were likely to blame, but he was completely unprepared for the doctor’s prognosis.

“He just said: ‘You’re diabetic. Diabetics don’t do well with transplants. You’re going to have to go on dialysis and you’re going to die,” Bogyo recalled.

“It was last thing on a Friday afternoon. His bedside manner sucked.”

After receiving a second opinion, Bogyo travelled to Halifax where he received a kidney from his sister, Valerie, and carried on with his life.

“That’s a big deal. The average transplant, they say, lasts 10 years, but there are a few people like Grant who’ve kept them for a lifetime, and so that’s a really special match,” said Teresa Atkinson, who’s organizing the Penticton Kidney Walk on Sunday.

The sixth annual event seeks to raise funds to support the Kidney Foundation of Canada’s research into kidney disease and increase awareness about the importance of organ donations.

Bogyo will be the guest of honour.

About 300 people participated last year, and organizers are hoping for up to 500 this year. In addition to the 2.5-kilometre walk, there will also be five- and 10-km pro runs, plus a separate race for professionals.

Registration opens at 9 a.m. at Riverside Village and events begin at 10 a.m. There will also be a silent auction, barbecue, music and kids’ activities.

Atkinson, who undergoes nocturnal dialysis six nights a week to deal with her chronic kidney disease, hopes Bogyo’s story will help people understand the importance of being a registered organ donor.

“If you were to die tomorrow, would you want to help other people live?” she said.

“And if you do, then you need to register, because it’s not fair to leave that decision in your family’s hands when they’re in crisis.”

Bogyo, who works as a clinical psychologist, is eager to help spread the word.

“If I had not received that organ, my wife of 38 years would have been a wife of eight years, I wouldn’t have been able to raise three adopted children, I wouldn’t have gone on and got a doctorate,” he said.

“I feel like I owe it to give back. It’s made me have a life, and part of my responsibility is to use it wisely.”