By Malcolm Fischer Guest columnist
This fall, I had the honour of participating in the 2017 Kidney March in Alberta’s foothills west of Calgary. I say honour, because it was one, and I spent many months walking hundreds of kilometres in preparation (thanks to all who offered waves and honks of encouragement on area highways). As one quickly discovers, this is no “walk in the park”, this march through the foothills for three days, and long walks hereabouts do not really compare with the relatively grueling climbs and descents involved in the actual March. Four years ago September 18, my grand daughter Aidan received a kidney transplant from her Mom, my daughter, Shauna Marty. The family lives in Lethbridge and I shan’t belabor this letter with describing the heartaches and fears of having your beloved grand daughter on numerous critical medications and all-night dialysis for a year and a half as her parents are tested thoroughly for a positive match. Aidan, Shauna, sister Drue and Dad Darren handled this as heroically as can be, and Shauna and Darren have each marched in the Kidney March twice. This year, Grampa, yours truly, decided to join in. And, it’s only when a serious issue confronts you face to face that you come to realize just how serious it is. Kidney failure is the number one killer of Canadians, and 3,400 people are awaiting a transplant, thereby receiving their lives back (transplants last a decade and much longer if luck is on your side). Our society has so many worthy causes, but this one is called the silent killer for just that reason. It doesn’t get the headlines and the news specials, but it does take lives. By the thousands.
The Kidney Foundation believes that the fund-and-awareness-raising annual March should involve genuine financial and physical sacrifice reflective of the hardships suffered by those living with kidney disease. And it does that in spades. It is not for the lightly committed. One must raise a minimum of $2,200 and complete the March to get the tee shirt, so to speak. And I cherish my well-earned tee shirt! (I was supported in excess of $4,000 although I did little public campaigning for money.) Kidney research, treatment innovations, medications, and many other treatment and detection techniques have been greatly enhanced directly from Kidney March funds, this year totaling in excess of $770,000 raised by 208 marchers. I do want readers to know that funds donated are well used.
That said, the bigger message is be an organ donor. When you renew your driver’s license, fill in that form. If misfortune should befall you and you depart this world ahead of schedule, so to speak, your legacy could save up to eight other people with varying life-threatening maladies. Kidney disease is not going away – numbers increase every year. If you should meet your demise, you can leave a legacy much richer than mere money. Be an organ donor. Save lives!