July 17, 2014 3:21 am

Hants County father gives kidney to his son, makes plea for more live donors

HALIFAX – Neil Benedict and his father Tim have a lot in common, but now there’s something tying them even closer together: Neil has one of his father’s kidneys.

Neil, 19, lives in Noel, Nova Scotia and was born with a kidney defect that left him with decreased function in the organ.

During a visit with specialists at Capital Health, doctors told him he only had nine per cent kidney function.

He was told he would need a kidney transplant within two years.

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“I was shocked. I was actually quite emotional,” he said. “I thought I was a healthy person and that my kidneys were okay. But then I hear this news I’m going to need a transplant.”

But even more worrying for the teen was the short amount of time he had to get the transplant.

“I was quite worried I wouldn’t find someone in time in order to have the transplant,” Neil said, adding that if he wasn’t able to find a donor then he would have to start dialysis.

Both Tim and Neil’s mother Anna decided to get tested to see if they were matches, and fortunately both were. Tim was a slightly better match and soon he started tests for the transplant procedure.

“Let’s get it over with,” Tim told Global News about his thoughts regarding the transplant.

About one month ago the pair underwent surgeries to remove Tim’s kidney and put it into Neil.

Both are still recovering from the procedures but Neil said he feels more energy as a result of his new kidney.

Meanwhile, Tim downplays his role in the situation.

“[It's just] something that had to be done. I never really thought about it. I know without me it wouldn’t have happened but I’m just a small [part of it],” he said.

But live kidney transplants are something that’s desperately needed in Nova Scotia. According to the Department of Health, 130 people are waiting for a kidney right now.

Figures show the wait time for a kidney transplant was 2.1 years in 2013.

The Kidney Transplant Program said only a quarter of transplants in Atlantic Canada are from live donors, a number that has stayed consistent the last few years.

Live kidney coordinators like Heather Travis are urging people to consider becoming donors.

“There’s only so many deceased organ donations available so if people have another option then that’s great,” she said.

Travis said donors and recipients need to go through extensive testing to ensure the transplant won’t be rejected.

But she notes that while family members often have a better chance at compatibility, even perfect strangers can donate.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re family or not. It just comes down to whether you’re a compatible blood group,” she said.

“We do husbands to wives, wives to husbands, co-workers have been live kidney donors.”

Travis said there are between 30 and 40 people in Nova Scotia who are in the process of becoming live donors; she notes that number is 70 to 80 in Atlantic Canada.

The Benedict family is also adding their voice to the plea for live donors, saying anyone that can safely donate an organ should consider doing so.

“There’s a growing need for this stuff and it makes a big difference in somebody’s life,” Tim said.

Neil said he is overwhelmed by the act of selflessness by his father.

“I honestly think what dad did for me was probably one of the biggest things any father, or anybody, can do for one person,” he said.

“To give your son a kidney just so he can get another chance at life is always a great thing to hear and it’s even a better thing to receive so now I’m actually able to enjoy life a little bit longer.”

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