Jennifer Boden is awaiting a kidney transplant date. Millar Hill photo.

South Cariboo woman struggles with series of health issues resulting in kidney failure

The trials and tribulations of kidney failure.

The last four years have been anything but easy for 67-year-old Jennifer Boden.

From unexpected infections, amputations and heart strokes to kidney failure – it’s been one doctor visit after another.

Boden is currently waiting for a kidney transplant.

“It began in 2015. I was at work and I started to not feel well when one of my coworkers suggested that I should go home, but I wasn’t able to,” she said. “The following day, I was taken to the hospital in the ambulance.”

Boden was diagnosed with Sepsis.

Sepsis is potentially a life-threatening disease that is caused by the body’s response to an infection. The body releases chemicals into the bloodstream in order to fight infections – sepsis occurs when those chemicals are imbalanced. The imbalances can trigger changes that can damage multiple organ systems.

Boden spent two months at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops due to the condition. The medication used to cure the sepsis affected her kidneys, resulting in one being removed.

“I think the biggest shock during the last four years was being told I had to get my toes cut off,” said Boden. “I also had open-heart surgery performed. I was also shocked being told I needed that done.”

“It’s been hell,” she added.

According to BC Transplant, the average patient on the waiting list for a kidney will wait four years before receiving their new organ. In 2018, there were 669 British Columbians on that list for a transplant. Boden has been waiting for four years, but the series of other health-related issues has prolonged her transplant date. She’s hoping it will happen this year at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

Boden’s brother, Dan White, has agreed to be her donor.

“He lives in Ontario, but he has been checked out and is confirmed a good match,” she said. “I think it’s just a matter of time in order to get everything together. We both will need to get tested again before the transplant.”

When kidneys fail, dialysis is a treatment that keeps the body in balance by removing waste, salt and water to prevent them from building up in the body – keeping a safe level of certain chemicals in the blood.

Boden has been on dialysis for over a year now.

“Getting used to the dialysis was quite a shock for me as well,” she said. “I didn’t know I had anything wrong with my kidneys. It took a while for them to discover what the sepsis had done to me.”

Boden’s days are spent on the couch. She can’t do much, at all. Her husband, Steve, watches after her – cooking, cleaning and keeping up with her doctor visits, medication and dialysis treatments. Her life has changed drastically. After the transplant is complete, she is hopeful of getting her regular life back.

“I want to enjoy life again, I want my energy back,” said Boden. “I have grandkids and I’d like to be able to spend time with them and right now, I just don’t have the energy. The other day, I washed my hair by myself and I was so proud but afterwards, I was sore for hours.”

There are certain risk categories for kidney disease, says Heather Johnson, Director of Programs at the Kidney Foundation of Canada, BC & Yukon Branch. There is diabetes, which is one of the leading causes for kidney disease. The second biggest risk is high blood pressure or people who have heart disease.

March is Kidney Awareness Month and World Kidney Day is on Thursday, March 14. The focus this year, is people who are at risk for kidney disease.

“If people know that, they can go to their doctor and have a simple blood test, which will tell them roughly what their percentage of kidney function is,” said Johnson. “The sooner one catches kidney disease, the more opportunity there is to make lifestyle changes that might help to stop or slow down the progression of kidney disease.”

The Kidney Foundation has a reimbursement program for all donors called LODERP, Living Organ Donor Expense Reimbursement Program.

“Since he [Dan, Boden’s brother] is coming from Ontario, British Columbia is benefiting because he is donating to a B.C. resident,” said Johnson. “Our program will cover his flight, travel up $1,500, accommodations, parking, meals – we hope there would be no financial implications for any donor.”

After surgery, Boden will have to remain in Vancouver for two months in order to have follow up appointments at the transplant hospital.

For now, she is at home with her husband Steve, patiently waiting for a transplant date.

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