Expat in Canada offers kidney to an old friend

2016-04-12 16:03

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2016-03-09 10:47

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Cape Town - In a move that shows how friendships can transcend borders, a South African expat based in Canada has offered to donate her kidney to an old school friend from Queen Elizabeth High School in Harare - whom she hasn’t seen in decades.

Di Wilkinson was diagnosed with polycystic kidneys in 2013, and was in end stage renal failure upon diagnosis. She has been on dialysis three times a week since then, going in and out of hospital with time sensitive, life-threatening conditions.

Incredibly, Di received seven offers for organ donation from friends, all of which proved to be unsuccessful matches. The first seven matched her blood type, but when it came down to tissue typing, the donors were incompatible.

Di then had an unconventional reunion with old school friend Jill Hamilton after hearing about Di’s condition through their old high school group on Facebook. Without hesitation, Jill offered up her kidney.

Jill on far left, Di, third from right, 14 years old, 1974. (Picture: Supplied)

Jill explained that the choice to donate was an easy one: “It was a simple decision and easy call to answer. The fact that we live on different continents is immaterial. Isn’t this why the internet exists? To enable communication and exchanges of information?”

“A friend is suffering. She needs a kidney. I have one to give. It might be a match” she wrote.

An emotionally taxing process

Di’s daughter Legh Wilkinson told News24 that while the family were blown away by the offer, they have learnt to stay cautious after the previous disappointments.  “It is an absolutely incredible thing to offer. We will always respect the decision of a donor to change their mind, though. The process has been emotionally taxing.”

South Africa has an extremely low donation rate of 0.3 %, due to cultural concerns and misinformation about donating. In Europe, the rate is 30%.

There is still a chance that the old friends may not match, but they both remain hopeful and anxious while they wait for Jill to undergo several blood tests in Canada.

Jill Hamilton and Di Wilkinson. (Picture: Supplied)

“The path to a live kidney transplant is time-consuming and nerve-racking as you wait for answers on compatibility” wrote Di on their shared blog.

Legh notes that their family’s efforts are not only for their mother. The 3 siblings have been campaigning for a broader awareness.  “We are a selfless family. We ultimately want to create awareness to help other families, and to encourage others to become organ donors.”

To follow their journey you can visit their blog or facebook page.

For more info on organ donation click here.

Read more on:    health  |  social media

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