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New national program renews hope for hard-to-match kidney patients

Watch above: The province is part of a national program that better matches otherwise hard-to-match kidney patients requiring transplants. Meaghan Craig speaks to one woman who has returned to her former lifestyle thanks to the program.

SASKATOON – There is renewed hope for kidney failure patients who were typically hard-to-match. On Friday, health officials launched the highly sensitized patient (HSP) program, a national initiative that has already benefited more than a hundred people across the country.

That includes Debbie Posehn, 53, who calls the program a miracle and her second chance at life.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan mom celebrates life after organ transplant

“I really never thought it was going to happen, I really thought I’d be on dialysis the rest of my life.”

Posehn, who was diagnosed in 1991 with lupus, began peritoneal dialysis in June of 2010.

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Since then she has had her hope and health renewed after successfully receiving a kidney transplant through the HSP program. The program takes advantage of high-quality laboratories to allocate kidneys with more accuracy and efficiency than ever before.

She is one of 111 Canadians to benefit from the program, the fourth in Saskatchewan since its inception in the fall of 2013.

“My husband says I maybe have too much energy because now he can’t keep up to me,” said Posehn.

Posehn is back to being active, returned to work and is looking forward to becoming a grandmother in August.

“On dialysis I thought of that, how I’m I ever going to be good a grandma hooked up to the machine all the time and I’m always tired and now that doesn’t seem like a issue,” added Posehn.

“I’m just looking forward to a better life.”

Currently, there are 93 people in Saskatchewan waiting for a kidney transplant, 16 are highly sensitized.

“These patients over time can develop lots and lots of these proteins and it gets to the point where these antibodies build up to such a wide-range and such a strong amount in their body that finding an organ that doesn’t have any of those proteins against it is very rare and very difficult,” said Dr. Rahul Mainra, a nephrologist with the Saskatchewan transplant program.

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According to Mainra, organ rejection rates among recipients who are not highly sensitized is about 10 per cent within the first year thanks to medications.

“Patients who are highly-sensitize they are still at a high-risk of rejection, probably more towards the 15 to 20 per cent range within the first year.”

“With this matching program with the high-sensitized patient registry we can improve those odds as best as possible,” said Mainra.

HSP first rolled out in Saskatchewan and Manitoba in October 2013, by 2014 all provinces and territories had adopted the program.