Friday, July 19, 2024

Victoria veteran turns to social media in hopes to receive kidney transplant and share his story


Eric James is a 15 year veteran in the Canadian Armed Forces who had to go on leave due to his ongoing kidney failure. 

His struggle with kidney failure has caused him to take to social media to put his plea for a donor out to the world. 

In 2017, James was diagnosed with kidney failure which in his case is a genetic disorder in his family for three generations going all the way back to his great-great-grandfather. 

After James found out his kidneys were failing, for about a year he was able to track the decline through regular blood tests and he was able to live his life pretty regularly. However, eventually his kidneys’ failure got to the point he had to be put on dialysis which he is now in his fifth year of.

“At first it was the standard of three runs a week, so three times a week which is every other day except the ‘renal weekend’ which is when you get a two day break,” James told Victoria Buzz.

Each ‘run’ of renal dialysis is about four hours and has to be done through the Royal Jubilee Hospital.

“I was very fortunate because I was trying to work full time and go to school and live my life that here in BC at Royal Jubilee Hospital, we have a nocturnal program,” said James. “So I’m able to go in the evenings and do my runs from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.”

He sleeps at the hospital through his eight hour runs which are overall better for his body than the four hour runs that are given to dialysis patients throughout the day.

“It allows me to at least have my day,” James explained. “Most people and most renal units won’t have that program.” 

BC Renal and Island Health provide the nocturnal program because they must. Victoria and Vancouver Island have over-representation of senior citizen populations as well as Indigenous populations who are two groups with a predisposition to kidney failure and renal conditions. 

James is the youngest in his renal unit at 35-years-old. He says there are other young people there but most are seniors who suffer from renal conditions that are often connected to diabetes and heart disease.

“Interestingly enough, kidney failure affects one-in-five Canadians,” James told Victoria Buzz. “Most people who have kidney failure will live their whole life not aware of the fact that they actually do have a form of kidney failure.” 

The unfortunate fact that James shared is that more often than not, when someone stops coming to the renal unit, it’s because of one of two reasons.

“You’ll go into the unit and the guy who normally sits beside you isn’t there anymore and the nurse will say, ‘Joe got a transplant,’” James explained. “Sadly though, what you hear more often than that is, ‘Joe passed away.’”

“This was a stark reality when I just started dialysis. I applied to get into the nocturnal program and was on a waiting list,” said James. “The nurse told me that the waiting list moves because here people die.”

Transplants only last so long for those lucky enough to receive one. An average kidney transplant from a live donor is viable for about 20 years. For a kidney that comes from a donor who has deceased, the viability is much less than that. 

James has been on a transplant waiting list for five years. He is unlucky in that he has a rare blood type–B+. 

“If you are a donor and pass away in a way that your organs can still be donated, they’ll start from the top of the list and they’ll work their way down,” said James. 

“It’s a matter of finding the most appropriate match. So you could be 100 down the list, but if you’re the match because of the blood type and through other detailed matching surrounding the immune system, you could get a kidney.”

He explained that it’s not a matter of where your position on the list is, it’s a matter of the viability of the match. James said the wait time on that list to receive a kidney from a donor cadaver is about five to seven years.

Most often, people suffering from kidney failure who get a transplant from someone they know. 

“A person is more likely to donate as a live donor when they are able to put a face and a name to a story,” said James. 

This is in part why he made a post on Facebook reaching out and telling a bit of his story in order to find a kidney donor and live his life a bit more normally for at least 20 years. 

(Eric James/Facebook)

“What actually prompted my post, is that the last two weeks have been really rough for me,” James told Victoria Buzz. “I started to develop congestive heart failure as a result of complications from being on the dialysis machine.”

“The first five years of being on the machine, I was very fit and healthy. But as time has gone on time has been catching up to me.” 

“We have two kidneys and you only need one,” said James. “All the donors who have given will tell you that they live perfectly normal lives after they’ve given.”

Those wishing to know more about donating a kidney can find information through St. Paul’s Hospital which is in Vancouver and handles most transplants. 

BC also has a transplant information website as a resource that has information as well as videos that dispel myths about several types of organ transplants. 

“I really need something to help me out here so I don’t continue down this path,” said James.

Curtis Blandy

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