It’s a match that might only be explained by divine intervention.
Brittany Hay, originally from Sussex, N.B., decided to move home after some time in western Canada. Eventually, she’d be set up with Colin Grieve, by their mutual friends. They both describe noticing each other casually at first.
“We hit it off,” Grieve said.
Five years later, the two share something even more special – a kidney.
Working against the clock
Grieve was around two years old when he was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD) – a genetic disorder where a fluid-filled cyst forms on the kidney and causes it to eventually lose function. His father had the disorder and so does his sister.
About a year ago, Grieve was told his kidney function was at about 10 per cent and it was a race against the clock. The search for a live donor began.
Grieve naturally assumed his mother or sister would be the ideal option, but testing, and because his sister also has the disease, determined it wouldn’t have worked despite them both being a match.
Transplants for people with PKD can be more challenging because of the genetic component of the disease, ruling out those in their family who carry the gene.
About 88.3 per cent of kidneys have been transplanted from cadavers, according to the PKD Foundation of Canada. It also said results are typically better when the kidney is donated from a live donor.
Having a deep-seated desire to help, Hay decided to undergo the testing process.
“Just the overwhelming part of being like, ‘I think that I’m actually going to be the match,’” she explained in an interview Saturday. And she was.
While they waited for the surgery date, the couple embarked on a process to help Grieve maintain what kidney function he had. His creatinine levels were high, according to the couple.
Creatinine is a product in the body the kidneys are meant to filter out, but with Grieve’s limited function, that was building up.
He said it was a miracle they made it past Christmas without needing to turn to dialysis. The two made significant changes to their diet and began growing their own food to have some control over what could impact both Grieve’s kidney function and Hay’s health. A lot of things — like potatoes and bananas — were off-limits for a while.
The call they’d been waiting for
The two got word of their impending procedure on Feb. 21, and would eventually go to the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax — where all transplants are done in Atlantic Canada. The surgery was performed on March 9.
Grieve will spend the rest of his life taking medications and going to medical appointments, but that’s all worth it, he said. He’s now focused on keeping his new kidney healthy, formerly Hay’s, saying he realizes the sacrifice his partner has made for him.
“I was definitely more nervous than she was,” he said. “I know she was in surgery first and I was literally waiting in bed to hear the stretcher coming to get me and that would have told me she was done and it just felt like forever. (She) gave me another chance. The gift of life is what she gave me, essentially.”
The two said they have a lot to be grateful for. They thanked the community, friends and family for the massive support and the medical teams in both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for helping through the process.
And as Hay and Grieve embark on their new normal, they have a match fit for a love story.