Bruce Malcolm was born with only one functioning kidney, but lived obliviously for decades until a medical insurance exam revealed it.
He then took good care of his only kidney, eating low-sodium meals and staying active, but about a year ago, the 80-year-old’s kidney problems got worse. He had to stop running and hiking because of pain in his feet, and went on a form of dialysis where a machine pumps fluid through his stomach every night.
Now, he needs a new kidney and he and his daughter Karen Malcolm-Pye are looking to social media for a donor.
WATCH: A long waitlist has prompted a Calgary family to take matters into their own hands in the search for a new kidney for their father. Bruce Malcolm’s family has turned to social media hoping to find him a kidney faster than the four to six years it’s expected to take on the national transplant waitlist.
“The dialysis that I’m on right now is not a forever dialysis,” said Bruce Malcolm. “With a kidney, I can get back closer to a normal life that I had.”
Karen, a makeup artist who works in television, had a friend produce a video which is making the rounds on social media, asking people to consider becoming a live kidney donor.
“The more I’ve talked to people, the more I hear, ‘My friend’s sister, my cousin’s daughter, needed a kidney, needs a kidney,’” she said.
“I just said to my dad, we need to get the word out there to find you a kidney and bring awareness to this.”
According to Jill Goth of the Kidney Foundation of Canada’s southern Alberta branch, 747 people were on a waiting list for an organ transplant in Alberta in 2016. Forty-five of those people died while they were waiting, and another 43 of those people came off the list because they became too sick or couldn’t do the surgery.
“People are dying as they wait, and it’s unacceptable,” Goth said. She’s heard it can take eight to 10 years in some cases for people to get a kidney in Calgary.
WATCH: (Feb. 15, 2018) A Calgary man is taking an innovative approach in his search for an organ donation. As Christa Dao explains, more and more people in need of donations are look at unconventional methods.
Unfortunately, none of Bruce’s three children is eligible to donate because of a condition that runs in the family.
So although her dad is on a waiting list for a kidney, they were told it might take as long as six years to get one, Karen said.
Bruce isn’t sure he has that long. “I can’t wait six years. I don’t want to wait six years. So I have to do whatever I can do myself.”
So far, the response to the social media campaign has been good, with more than 25 people contacting the family to express interest in donating.
“It’s very, very encouraging. Very encouraging. And not only for myself, but hopefully for other people as well,” Bruce said.
“It almost brings tears to your eyes.”
Karen thinks that her search will have a positive result. “I’m not only hopeful, I really believe it’s going to happen. I want my dad around longer and to do that we need to find a donor.”
“It would mean everything to me and my siblings, to my dad’s grandkids, to my dad’s wife. He is a man who has so much more life to live and, unfortunately, with his kidney disease, it’s taken away his ability to do a lot of the things he loves to do.”
In addition to finding a kidney for her dad, Karen hopes that the campaign raises awareness about organ donation more generally. “I’m feeling really empowered by this because we, as a family, have realized that it’s a much bigger issue than just my dad,” she said. “There are children that need kidneys. There are fathers that are 30 years old that need kidneys. There are single 50-year-old women that need kidneys.”
Public campaigns help everybody, Goth said. “Campaigns like this are prompting people to come forward, showing interest in becoming a living donor. And even if they don’t match with that particular person, they’re still going forward with the surgery.”
A single kidney donation to the right person can set off a chain reaction of donation pairs and potentially save many lives, she said.
Karen emphasizes that her dad only needs one kidney.
“We just need one. We just need one kidney. But if we’ve had 40 people or 100 people reach out about giving a donation to somebody in Canada, just think, that could potentially be 40 people or 100 people off that list.”
Karen is asking anyone who is interested in donating to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .
If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a living donor, Goth suggests that you contact the local transplant program in your area. The Canadian Transplantation Society has a list on their website.
Although they welcome donors, Goth believes that big changes in the health care system are the best way to meet the needs of people who need organ transplants. “What needs to change, really, is we need specific donation doctors and nurses in hospitals and mandatory referrals.”