Every spring, people from Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon and the Northwest Territories take part in the annual kidney walk.
But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event was done in a virtual format.
That didn’t stop those who have been participating yearly or take away from how important it is to those dealing with kidney issues or trying to be donors.
Bridge City participants gather at Lakeview Park for the walk.
Suzanna D’Aprile, Saskatchewan branch coordinator for the Kidney Foundation of Canada, says the kidney walk is a time to come together to celebrate, honour, and advocate for our kidney and transplant community.
“When I hear of people stepping up to be a living donor, I think it’s an amazing gift,” said D’Aprile, who is a kidney transplant recipient.
“It’s the gift of life. It’s the best gift someone could ever receive.”
Saskatoon residents Dave McKeague, 72, and his daughter Caileen have been involved with the event for four years.
In 2012, Dave was first informed of his kidney issues. In 2016, he was told he had acute kidney failure. But then, about a year and a half ago, Caileen was approved to be her dad’s donor.
“For Caileen to initiate that process on her own time, basically go through the qualifications, it took about a year,” Dave said.
“I didn’t even know that it was happening until my wife told me.”
It wasn’t until after another family member was an unsuccessful match that Caileen made the decision to get tested.
It turned out she was the perfect match.
“I was a direct match, some people have to do chain (testing),” said Caileen.
“That’s great because then you help out with a lot of people. But it’s so nice to know that I’m a match and my kidney can go directly to my dad.”
Dave says he was put on the list for a kidney transplant early this year, with a scheduled surgery time of April or May. But COVID-19 threw a wrench into that timeline as well.
At this point, his operation date remains unknown.
“Last time I checked with the transplant coordinator, they still hadn’t geared up yet, although they were assuming they would sometime in the near future.”
The Saskatchewan Health Authority said in a statement kidney transplants are considered urgent surgery, so if they have a donor to match then they would proceed with the surgery.
The statement also said that would occur as soon as it was possible. It did not provide a specific timeline or date.
In 2019, we celebrated four participants who received a transplant and previously were all on dialysis.
“It was an amazing celebration to honour them last year,” D’Aprile said.
A knack for fundraising
Dave says this isn’t the only thing they have raised funds for. During a hospital stay after his second kidney failure while on hemodialysis, he had to transfer from the St. Paul’s Hospital to the Cameco Community Renal Health Centre.
In that time, he noticed there wasn’t any sort of entertainment system in the health centre and decided to do something about it.
“I stared with the St. Paul’s Hospital fundraising effort to get enough money to allow people to have a TV to watch while they are waiting for four and half hours for their dialysis to take place,” Dave said.
“We successfully raised the money last summer. As far as I know, that was installed.”
They’ve raised over $8,000 this year and roughly $15,000 total towards the cause — that’s over a fifth of the roughly $50,000 raised by those who reside in Saskatchewan.
Over $400,000 has been raised towards the foundation’s “vital programs and services and innovative research.”
Even after the transplant, the McKeague’s plan to continue the tradition to raise funds for the cause.