Penticton White Spot owner Al Mansfield serves up a burger to Noreen Conway (right) who donated a kidney to his wife and Michelle Perrier a registered living kidney donor. Money from entrees Sunday at the restaurant will be donated to the Kidney Foundation B.C. Yukon. Mark Brett/Western News

‘The most beautiful moment of my life’ – Penticton kidney donor

A Penticton woman donates one of her kidneys

“The most beautiful moment of my life.”

That’s how kidney donor Noreen Conway, age 59, described that day at Penticton Regional Hospital (PRH) when she told Dorothy Mansfield the news that would forever change both their lives.

After going through more than a year of extensive testing, and finally learning that she would be a suitable donor, Conway was given the opportunity to deliver that message in person.

Living donor Noreen Conway (centre) with recipient Dorothy Mansfield and husband Al Mansfield in Vancouver General Hospital following the kidney transplant surgery in June.
Submitted photo

“I asked Al (Dorothy’s husband) if she would be comfortable if I came to the renal board (at PRH) to see dialysis because I didn’t understand that part of the condition and so he asked her and she said OK,” recalled Conway whose rare B positive blood type matched Dorothy’s. “When I came in I knew what she looked like but she didn’t know me.

“She was watching something on television and I stood at the end of the bed, I’m waving and she takes the headphones off and I said: ‘Hi Dorothy, I’m Noreen’ and she just started silently weeping.

“I started crying and I said: ‘We’re going to get you better’ and the nurses came over because they saw she was upset and she said: ‘This is my donor, this is my donor.’”

Related: Penticton business owner pledges support to the Kidney Walk

The two sat together for a time while Dorothy, now 63, was undergoing dialysis as she had been three days a week for the past nine months.

“I said to Dorothy: ‘I’ve seen you in the community for years but you don’t know me, but at a time like this it really doesn’t matter does it?’ and she said: ‘No. All I want to see is my grandchildren grow up,’ and I said: ‘We’re going to get you to see your grandchildren grow up.’ I’ll never ever, ever forget that moment.”

The entire process has left Al Mansfield with a realization that many have found in similar situations.

“You know, life is just a gift I remember Dorothy saying: ‘I don’t want to die,’” he said. “And really, nobody wants to die but that’s always a fear with cancer or kidney disease. It’s a disease that’s life-threatening.”

Penticton White Spot owner Al Mansfield serves up a burger to Noreen Conway (right) who donated a kidney to his wife and Michelle Perrier a registered living kidney donor. Money from entrés Sunday at the restaurant will be donated to the Kidney Foundation BC Yukon.
Mark Brett/Western News

She learned during her testing that to remain on the active donor list she would have to keep registering.

“I assumed they’d phone me when they had somebody but it doesn’t work that way,” she said.

Related: Kidney Walk returns to support those affected by kidney disease

The connection happened one day two years ago when Al came into the downtown Penticton CIBC branch where Conway worked as a teller.

“He was talking to another teller and I’m nosey, chitty, chatty obviously, and he was saying their (the couple’s) plans had changed and I said: ‘Why is that?’ and he said: ‘My wife’s health.’ and I said I hope it’s not cancer and he said: ’No, she needs a kidney transplant.’”

After telling Mansfield she was on the living kidney registry he asked what her blood type was.

“I’ll never forget,” said Conway thinking back.

“I said I’m B Positive and his whole face just changed and he said: (whispering) ‘My wife is B Positive.’”

The pair exchanged information and Conway’s testing began shortly afterwards and last December she received the news the transplant was a go.

“It was like it was meant to be,” said Conway who added that age is no barrier when it comes to becoming a live donor.

Related: Transplant gives Penticton resident a new lease on life

The surgery was a success and the Mansfield’s returned to the Okanagan last week.

Sadly for the Penticton family, while Dorothy has a new lease on life, their 43-year-old son Daniel now also needs another kidney.

At “end stage” kidney failure, his father is going through the necessary testing to see if he is a suitable donor.

If not, Al will once again begin the search for another donor, hopefully finding someone as selfless as Conway, willing to donate to give the gift of life.

Kidney Walk Close to Mansfield’s Hearts

This Sunday’s annual Kidney Walk has an extra special place in the hearts of the Mansfield family.

Because kidney disease has touched the family in such a big way Al Mansfield, who owns the White Spot Restaurant on Main Street, wants to do as much as he can to help others in the same position.

That includes raising as much money as he can that day for the Kidney Foundation of B.C. and Yukon as well as heightening awareness of the need for organ donors, especially living donors like Noreen Conway who donated one of her kidneys to his wife Dorothy last June. To help out financially he has committed to the highest level of the community sponsorship package on the day of the walk.

In addition to donating $2 from each adult or children’s entree (pickup and online included) on Sept. 23 to the foundation, he has convinced the parent company to match the amount raised and challenged other White Spot Restaurants to contribute to the cause.

“My goal is $4,000 but I’m hoping it’s going to be $5,000,” said Mansfield, this week to promote the walk that begins at Gyro Park with a provincial goal of raising $30,000.

His willingness to talk about the need for living donors has also already lined up another potential donor-recipient combination in Penticton. Michelle Perrier who works at White Spot was so moved by her boss’s story she decided to register with the foundation as a living donor.

“He (Mansfield) was going through the testing and I just started thinking about it more, I’m healthy, maybe I can give a kidney,” said Perrier about her decision.

After researching her maternity records she learned her blood type was the same as Al’s wife but by then the Mansfield’s already had a donor in Conway. Then one day she saw a plea from a Penticton woman on Facebook looking for someone willing to donate a kidney to her husband, who she had given one to 17 years earlier. His blood type, B Positive, the same as Perrier’s.

“Right away I messaged her,” said Perrier who wrote back: “Hello? You don’t know me but this is my information.”

“She (Michael’s wife) was blown away.”

They have since got together for coffee and Perrier is now in the testing process to determine if she is a suitable match. Ironically the man (Michael) needing the transplant was working at the Mansfield property one day when he stopped his machine and approached the owner.

“He came over and said: ‘I think we have something in common,’ and I don’t know him from anybody,” Mansfield recalled. “He said: ‘You’ve got an employee who works for you named Michelle and I’m a B Positive. Small world.”

Registration for Sunday’s event is at 9 a.m. at Gyro with the walk starting at 10 a.m.

To register or to donate go to: https://kidney.akaraisin.com/ui/16810.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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