19th Hole

Sharing an important story

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Cathy Burton

Ten years ago I was diagnosed with Kidney Disease and now I need a kidney transplant.

Most people don’t realize I have this disease because there are so few visible signs of actual illness. I probably went undiagnosed for a couple of years. From this vantage point, I can look back and see symptoms of kidney disease, which at the time didn’t seem like much at all. Adding them up led to a diagnosis.

Since that diagnosis I have certainly had my share of ups and downs. I take very little medication, which is a good thing. However my Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR), which is how much blood is filtered in the kidneys per minute, continues to drop and now sits at 11%.

I have been on the transplant list since June of 2013, beginning a staggering 8-10 years wait for a cadaver donor. (These are possible because people have decided that if something terrible happens to them—usually an accident—they want something good to come of it. You can sign your donor card by clicking here.

As the disease progresses, without a transplant, my health will eventually decline, forcing me to go on dialysis.

That scares the hell out of me.

I have lost 25 pounds in two years as I struggle with diet and sticking to low sodium, low phosphorous, low potassium and gout triggers. I’m also lactose intolerant and have to stay away from fructose. Ironically, as I’ve lost weight, many people have commented to me how great I look. Some, who haven’t seen me for a while, comment on how thin I am getting.

I find it overwhelming at times. In order to cope with all of this I am taking advantage of counselling provided by the Kidney Foundation so that I am mentally prepared for the next stages . . . I also have to organize my life, so that I have plans in place as my life changes.

When I begin dialysis, I am going to need assistance in the form of a chauffeur, to and from the hospital. I may need some support for daily life, especially when tired out from the disease and treatment.

As I wait for a transplant, I will lose a level of health and well-being. If a live donor could be found, it would be my best chance for avoiding more declines in health and a much better outcome for the rest of my life.

I have found it really hard to imagine asking someone to consider becoming a donor. I know being a live kidney donor is now much easier and less invasive and traumatic to the donor than it was in the past. Surgery used to require a full incision and a long recovery time. Modern medicine now uses laparoscopic surgery with recovery time of 5-7 days.

I am blood type O and will need another O to donate to me. At this time, live donors must know whom they are donating to. But if you are willing to be a donor and are not blood type O, the kidney foundation may be able to set up a ‘domino’ surgery, where donors and recipients who don’t match are matched with others in the same situation, to make a match. Last year there was a donation like this where four live donors each gave a kidney to four people who needed a kidney.

Everyone has two kidneys, but only needs one to be healthy.

There is no long-term consequence to a donor’s health, other than the surgery itself. To see if you can be a donor; first you have to talk with your doctor and if there are no preexisting health issues, you will have some basic medical tests performed ensuring t you are able to be considered as a donor. It takes about six months for the screening process before donation can even be considered.

So there is lots of time to think about it, prepare and be sure this is the right thing for you. If you were wondering if you might be able to be a donor, would you consider taking the first step? Ask your doctor if you might be able to be a kidney donor.

Now my life is all about hoping someone will give me the best gift: the rest of my life.

So despite all of this, I continue to set goals for my future and look forward to life after transplant. My career as a golf professional continues to be my passion in life. Every day I learn new things about the students I teach and coach, creating a fun positive learning environment and more importantly I strive to be better at what I do.

I am grateful for the support of close friends, family, coworkers, members of Willow Park Golf Club and McDougall United Church who continue to be in my life and show a great capacity for caring and kindness. Sharing my story wasn’t easy in the beginning, but lately it has become a necessity if I am to continue to have a decent quality of life in the future.