Our Town

Gift of kidney “overwhelming”

Kidney donor Pam Easton sits next to kidney recipient Dale Langford. Because Easton’s kidney wasn’t a direct match for Langford, they were both matched to other donors and recipients through the National Living Donor Paired Exchange Registry. - Tara Sprickerhoff
Kidney donor Pam Easton sits next to kidney recipient Dale Langford. Because Easton’s kidney wasn’t a direct match for Langford, they were both matched to other donors and recipients through the National Living Donor Paired Exchange Registry.
— image credit: Tara Sprickerhoff

When Pam Easton heard her long-time friend Dale Langford was on dialysis and in need of a kidney, she didn't hesitate to offer hers.

"He needed one and I had one. There was totally no thought into it at all," she says. "It wasn't really a huge decision for me. I wasn't going to sit by and let him be sick."

Langford, sitting comfortably on the couch in Easton's home in 108 Mile Ranch, says Easton even offered twice.

"I said it's not like lending me the car," he says.

But Easton wasn't deterred.

"You're sick. I'm healthy. I just don't understand how you couldn't. Really there wasn't a lot of thought put into it. It was kind of a knee-jerk reflex," she says. "It just seemed natural."

In fact, Easton didn't even consult with her husband before offering her kidney.

"After I told my husband I was doing it, he was like, 'Maybe we should have talked about it'," she admits with a laugh, adding that her family was entirely supportive throughout the process.

In British Columbia, 80 per cent of the 634 people waiting for an organ transplant are in need of a kidney. In 2017 alone, 16 people have already received kidneys, and another 514 are still on the waiting list. In 2016, 95 people received kidneys from living donors. Langford was one of those, receiving a kidney on Jan. 28, 2016.

Langford, however, did not receive his kidney from Easton.

During the initial screening process, it was determined that Easton's kidney was not a direct match for Langford. Instead, they were added to the National Living Donor Paired Exchange Registry. The registry allows donors and recipients to be matched with other pairs who can provide better matches.

In October of 2015, Langford and Easton received the news. Easton was a match for someone in need of a kidney and the registry had found a kidney that would match Langford.

Both had their operation done at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver in early 2016. Langford was heading out of the hospital with a new kidney as Easton went in to donate hers.

"We kind of reversed roles is actually what happened," says Langford. "I was feeling good and Pam was feeling the pits."

Despite the jokes, Langford has difficulty finding the right words to express his gratitude for Easton.

"It's not an easy gift to accept. There's a lot that goes along with it," he says. "I'm back feeling good, working again and having family. If I get into it, I'll start crying and I told Pam I wouldn't do that. It means the world."

Easton spent three months off before returning to her work as an emergency room nurse. Langford returned to his work as a mechanic in September of 2016.

Both are in good health today. While Langford still has some issues, his kidney is working fine.

This isn't the first time Langford has needed a kidney. Due to a flu that knocked out function in his kidneys, Langford's brother donated Langford's first kidney over twenty years ago. That kidney "just kind of wore out" says Langford.

Easton encourages anyone who has thought about donating to look into it by calling BC Transplant.

"I work in emergency. I'm part of saving lives every day, but to actually do it in that respect—it's life changing," she says. "Truly, from the gift of giving, it's the most personal difference you can make in someone's life."

Langford's spouse, Terry Larum, agrees.

"It's been incredible to watch this whole process. Certainly, you can imagine life on dialysis, it affects the whole family. To not have that lingering in the background anymore, to just be doing your normal everyday stuff, it's pretty amazing," she says.

Langford, for his part, encourages anyone who is waiting for a donation to not give up hope.

He quiets when explaining the difference Easton's donation has made.

"It's huge. It's overwhelming sometimes," he says. "It's overwhelming."

Easton says she's trying to be gracious.

"I just have to let him buy dinner more," she says.

"She gets mad at me! Says quit buying. We have to trick her," Langford adds.

In reality, Easton says it's because she doesn't want her donation of a kidney to change anything.

"I didn't ever want to feel like I was owed," she says. "I would never want that part of a friendship. Most days I don't even think about it. It was just something we did and it's all good."

"I think about it every day," says Langford.

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