PORT HASTINGS: While her son awaits a kidney transplant, Tonia LeBlanc wants everyone to know that organ donation saves lives.
LeBlanc said her twin boys were born two months early at the IWK Health Centre, with her son Matthew brought into the world with kidney dysplasia. Once his parents were trained to do his dialysis at home, Matthew left the hospital.
“So basically, he just had no kidney function; he was born with end-stage renal failure, which meant he needed to start dialysis right away, so he started dialysis at three days old,” she recalled. “At six months old, he came home and he spent the rest of that time on dialysis for about 14 hours every night, until he received his kidney transplant when he was 19 months.”
Matthew received a new kidney from his dad Andy on September 5, 2013.
“We had a living donor, which was awesome,” she noted. “We could prepare, have a date set, and know when the transplant was going to happen.”
Unfortunately, Matthew had complications after the transplant which caused damage to his kidney.
Then in 2015, Matthew had a kidney rejection episode and was in the IWK for a few weeks. Tonia said her son went on the list to receive a new kidney two months ago.
“Between that and him growing, we always knew the kidney wouldn’t last forever, but over the last year, it started failing again. Over the last year, we’ve seen his kidney function decrease dramatically. Right now he has 11 per cent kidney function,” Tonia confirmed. “We can get the call anytime.”
According to his mother, Matthew takes anti-rejection medication every day, which can cause complications like infections and pneumonia.
Tonia said Matthew goes to St. Martha’s Regional Hospital for blood work bi-weekly so his doctors can keep an eye on his condition. Every time she travels to Antigonish, Tonia prepares herself for the possibility that he will have to resume dialysis, which isn’t a pleasant prospect.
“He’s had about 25 surgeries so far in his life, and we know that he’ll be having more, obviously, with the upcoming transplant,” Tonia said. “We just want to get the word out there.”
Although changes to provincial legislation have allowed people to be considered organ donors unless they specifically opt out, Tonia pointed out that organ donation is still confined to those who suffered brain death, as well as some cardiovascular problems.
“Even though everyone is considered to be an organ donor, which is amazing and I’m so proud of our province for doing that, it still hasn’t upped our numbers at this point,” she noted. “We definitely need more conversation around it. It’s still up to the family, so it’s really important to talk to your family.”
And because April is national organ donation month, Tonia believes this a good time to raise awareness of the many Nova Scotians waiting for new organs.
“Because he is only nine years old right now, we know that further down the line, this won’t be his last kidney unfortunately,” Tonia added. “We hoped that it would be but we don’t expect this one to last the rest of his life. Whether he’ll have one more, two more, possibly even more, organ donation is extremely important to our family now.”