John Sinclair knows it’s only a matter of time before his kidneys fail.
But the 108 Mile Ranch resident hopes before then, a live kidney donor will be found. It’s been a year since he qualified for a transplant, but the pandemic has slowed down the intensive and time-consuming process of finding a match.
“I have no way of knowing how many potential donors there are, or who they are unless they contact me directly,” Sinclair, 54, said. “A couple of people have stepped forward but, like everything, COVID-19 has put a big question mark in front of everything.”
Sinclair suffers from a rare genetic kidney disease that he inherited from his father, and has since passed on to his second daughter. He’s constantly exhausted with low energy and feeling unwell. Even so, Sinclair considers himself luckier than most: six years ago, he was told he had six months before his kidneys failed and he would have to go on dialysis.
A better diet, two to three litres of water a day and more exercise have helped but haven’t stopped his kidneys from deteriorating. His kidneys are now functioning at 15 per cent, but Sinclair won’t be eligible for a new kidney until it dips below 10 per cent – to ensure he gets the most out of his original organs before they are replaced.
READ MORE: Former 100 Mile resident looks for kidney
“It’s not if, it’s when,” he said, but added he feels fortunate he’s not on dialysis yet. He has managed to lose 40 pounds, but continues to work on losing weight and to do what he can to slow the progression. “It’s just one of those things you learn to live with. It’s not a death sentence. Some days you go out and you feel great. You take it one day at a time.”
The number of people diagnosed with kidney disease continues to rise, with one in 10 Canadians affected, which is more than four million people in Canada. The Kidney Foundation is committed to providing the educational resources, learning tools and community connections that can help ease the burden of living with this chronic illness.
Those affected by kidney disease are coming together virtually during Kidney Health Month to explore topics aimed at creating an environment that encourages Living Your Best Life with Kidney Disease, as its title reflects.
Sinclair said living with kidney disease hasn’t incapacitated him but it has affected his quality of life. He can’t take big trips or go far from home knowing his kidneys could fail at any time. He has to go in for regular tests and monitoring and be careful what he eats because even so-called healthy foods can be dangerous to a kidney patient.
Although the ultimate goal is getting a transplant, Sinclair said it took him a long time to go on the list because he didn’t want to put someone else through the process of donating.
Potential donors have to go through a multitude of tests, which consider everything from blood types and characteristics to medical history. It typically takes at least a year to find a donor.
“It’s a huge commitment – you’re literally giving a part of yourself to someone else,” said Sinclair, a former 100 Mile Free Press photographer and editor. “It was a difficult journey for me because I don’t like asking people for anything. I have a great deal of respect for people who do this.”
Even if he does find a donor, Sinclair will have to deal with possible rejection of the organ as well as the knowledge that a replacement kidney won’t last as long as his original ones. His father waited three years for a transplant but died shortly after because of complications.
Still, he is looking forward to the day when he can wake up feeling energized and ready to go out and explore or pursue his hobbies, such as photography.
“If someone is willing to give you an organ it’s your duty to take care of yourself and respect that sacrifice they made,” he said. “It would be great to wake up and have that energy. That’s what I’m looking forward to – I’m going to go out and enjoy life today because I feel good. It’s a way of getting your life back.”
Anyone interested in being a potential donor for Sinclair can contact the Vancouver General Hospital Pre-Transplant Clinic at 1-855-875-5182 to request a transplant information package outlining what is involved in being a donor.