Six years ago, during a routine blood test, Eunice Hein of Rosthern found out there was something not quite right with her kidneys.
It was a shock because she had no pain or other symptoms.
Further tests revealed that she has Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).
Nicknamed ‘the silent killer’ because there are no signs or symptoms until its fifth and final stage, CKD has no cure. The only options for people with stage 5 CKD are dialysis or a transplant.
Eunice, 68, said when her CKD was fist diagnosed, she was prescribed salt pills to help her kidneys function as efficiently as possible in their already-damaged condition.
But over the years, the organs continued to deteriorate.
“When I was first diagnosed, my kidneys were functioning at 25 per cent of normal,” said Eunice in an interview October 29. “But about a year ago, they dropped to 15 per cent, and then to 12 per cent, then 10 per cent, and now they’re working at nine per cent.”
Eunice, her husband John, and her family are hoping that someone will come forward to donate a kidney so that she can have a second chance at life.
“We’re praying that there is someone out there who is willing to be a live donor, and who is also a perfect match,” said Eunice. “I’m sure if this is what God has planned for me, it will come through.
“It’s very difficult right now because I’m tired all the time, and I have absolutely no energy or quality of life.
“But at the same time I’m very much at peace with it. I really don’t think God is finished with me yet, and that He will find someone who can help me.”
Eunice said doctors have not been able to determine why she got the disease, as she does not have high blood pressure or diabetes or other risk factors.
“I’m a medical mystery,” she said. “It’s difficult to pinpoint the cause.”
According to the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s (SHA) Kidney Health Community Program, CKD only becomes apparent when kidneys are functioning at less than 30 per cent of normal.
Everyone has two kidneys, each about the size of a closed fist. They are located in the lower back on either side of your spine just below your rib cage. Each kidney contains about one million tiny filtering units called nephrons which produce urine to expel waste from the body; keep essential minerals and electrolytes balanced; and make hormones that control blood pressure and manufacture red blood cells.
Eunice said she has so far opted not to proceed with dialysis because she is optimistic a live donor can be found.
“I have been told by doctors that if I can skip dialysis and get a transplant from a live donor, my chances of success; of the kidney not being rejected by my body; are much higher.”
She said for the past year she’s been put through many rigorous tests to determine if she is healthy enough to receive a kidney from a live donor.
“I have my own transplant coordinator at the health region who works with me and keeps in touch,” said Eunice. “I take blood work every two weeks, and it goes to the coordinator to review.”
There is also a comprehensive screening process for potential donors conducted by the Kidney Foundation of Canada. The phone number to call for anyone interested in becoming a kidney donor is 1-306-655-5054.
Potential donors who want to give one of their kidneys to Eunice need to specify when they call that the kidney is for Eunice.
“You have to be over 18 years of age to donate a kidney,” said Eunice. “The important thing is to talk to your family ahead of time about becoming a donor.
There is always trepidation, but the truth is that a person can live very well with only one kidney. In fact, a lot of people are born with only one kidney. I’m told that for the donor it’s not a bad surgery, and life can continue as normal afterward.”