‘He is my hero’: Saskatoon woman recovers from long-awaited kidney transplant

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Saskatoon woman recovers from long-awaited kidney transplant
In February, Global News shared a story of a woman in need of a kidney who finally found a match. Gates Guarin reports to check in on how things are going post-surgery. – Apr 2, 2023

On February 28, Saskatoon resident Debbie Onishenko was given a new kidney from someone who saw her story online.

“It didn’t seem real until I was in recovery, and I woke up and they said everything went great,” said Onishenko.

She was just released from the hospital after almost a month of recovering.

Onishenko had been on the hunt for a kidney donor after struggling with kidney disease, going so far as to put a decal on her car asking for help. Her call was answered by Brent Kruger, looking to help.

In a previous interview with Global News, Kruger said this all stemmed from when he was scrolling through local news online one night when he happened upon Onishenko’s story.

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“A lightbulb went on when I saw the news story of Debbie,” said Kruger. “It was one of those things where I knew I had to try to get tested. I just felt in my heart it was something I needed to do.”

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He said he knew friends of family members who needed a kidney transplant, and that’s what got him thinking about getting tested.

The process for testing went from September to January.

“From start to finish, I probably had 40 vials of blood taken,” Kruger said. “I got CT scans done, ultrasounds, X-rays, respiratory checks. You name it, I did it.”

On February 28, Kruger was able to successfully give Onishenko the kidney she had been waiting for.

“The emotions were pretty intense, just knowing I was about to do something totally crazy,” said Kruger. “It was a surreal experience waking up and just knowing, my goodness, it’s done.”

He spent five days in the hospital after the operation.

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Kruger said there was never a doubt in his mind that he wasn’t going to go through with the transplant.

“For me it was paying it forward and loving my neighbour as myself and that’s what it comes down to. I’ve got a life back, I really do now,” Onishenko said.

She is looking foward to spending time with her family.

Kruger and Onishenko still keep in touch.

“We’ve become family now,” said Onishenko. “We are going to hang out and do things together and get to know them even better now. That’s going to be amazing. He is my hero.”

Both donor and recipient are hoping this story sheds a spotlight on the need for donations.

“I’m just a guy who made a call,” Kruger said. “I would encourage anyone to think about donation of any kind. Donate blood, plasma, bone marrow, we have one kidney to give. You need to give.”


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