Kathryn Whaley’s kidney quest

Kathryn Whaley on a Machu Picchu hike in 2016 fundraising for the Arthritis Society. Photo Susan Stephen.

Kathryn Whaley describes herself as “so blessed to be part of such a supportive community.” She is referring to her church community at Leaside Presbyterian Church, her neighbourhood community in North Leaside and also a wide circle of friends, some from her childhood in Whaleys Corners, Ont. (the town is related to her family), and others from first year at the University of Waterloo.

Blessed she may feel, but she is in need of a blessing too. Being treated for juvenile arthritis from the age of three, involving long-term use of high doses of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, caused the scarring, permanent damage and ultimate failure of her kidneys. For the past four months, she has been receiving dialysis treatments three times a week for about four hours each day at the St. Michael’s Hospital Kidney Care Centre in the East York Town Centre in Thorncliffe. She is being trained to organize the needed treatments herself with a goal of being able to do dialysis at home. She has just learned that her veins are strong enough to graduate from a port in her chest to a fistula on an arm, which means she will be able to shower and swim without having to care for the open port. Dialysis at home will enable her to modify the times, within limits, but regular dialysis is still a necessity.

For the past four months, Kathryn has been receiving dialysis treatments three times a week for about four hours each day at the St. Michael’s Hospital Kidney Care Centre in the East York Town Centre in Thorncliffe.
For the past four months, Kathryn has been receiving dialysis treatments three times a week for about four hours each day at the St. Michael’s Hospital Kidney Care Centre in the East York Town Centre in Thorncliffe. Photo Lorna Krawchuk.

Unless! The “unless” is a kidney transplant. The wait for a donor kidney can be five to seven years from an organ donor (in Ontario, you can tick a box on your income tax return to donate any useful organs – have you?). An alternative is a living donor. Since most of us have two kidneys and can manage quite nicely with just one, there is an opportunity for a life-changing donation. It’s not quite as straightforward as giving blood, and involves extensive psychological testing as well as physical testing to qualify, but the end result can change another’s life for the better at a small cost to you.

Kathryn’s first-year university friends, Lynne Fraser and Rosemarie Battaglia, have set up a Facebook page, Kathryn’s Kidney Quest, to attract a living kidney donation. As Lynne says, “Our outreach will hopefully help to raise awareness of Kathryn’s need and convince people to learn more about being a living kidney donor. It’s the first step, but a big one.” A new website, www.kathrynskidneyquest.com, is also up and running. 

Kathryn and her family discovered Leaside as “a wonderful neighbourhood through a friend in prenatal class in 1999” and moved here in September 2002. She and her family joined Leaside Presbyterian Church, where she’s been an active volunteer. Carol Anne Armstrong, who joined the church through becoming friends with Kathryn years ago, describes her friend as “generous and autonomous. She doesn’t want to be on the receiving end of help. It is a big challenge for her to set the bar low on dialysis days.”

Support for Kathryn, in the form of a new kidney from a living donor, would certainly be a positive way to see in the new year.

Interested in becoming a living kidney donor? Learn more: https://kidney.ca/Get-Involved/Be-an-Organ-Donor/Consider-Being-a-Living-Kidney-Donor.

About Lorna Krawchuk 179 Articles
Lorna Krawchuk is publisher of Leaside Life. She is actively involved in St. Cuthbert’s Church. Her volunteer activities with the Leaside Property Owners’ Association led to her being elected a Councillor in the Borough of East York for 9 years before amalgamation in 1998. She also held a variety of volunteer leadership positions with the Girl Guides of Canada for over 30 years. Lorna has been a Leasider since 1968.