Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Walk4Life - another Tip-to-Tip story

Today Alex and I just had the great pleasure of meeting, and taking a few steps with, Brian Ellis. Brian is on Day 5 of his 2nd annual tip-to-tip Walk4Life. He left East Point on Saturday, April 21st and is planning on seeing the North Cape lighthouse Sunday, April 29th. Here is Brian, telling his story:

Welcome to My 2nd Annual Walk!
Monday April 16th 2007,


My name is Brian Ellis. I have a long history of serious kidney disease. In 1998, shortly after moving to Prince Edward Island, my family doctor finally decided to end the mystery of my elevated blood pressure. My blood pressure had been uncontrollable since I was 18 years old.

Upon receiving a battery of tests at the PCH, including an ultrasound on my kidneys, it was determined that I had chronic kidney failure. To confirm his findings, my doctor sent me to Halifax. After seeing a number of doctors there, and going through more testing, they sadly told me that I was down to 25% function in both kidneys and my future held the certainty of dialysis.

The next few years of my life changed dramatically as my doctors and I worked together to prolong the inevitable through diet, fluid restrictions and medication. In 2005, I was told I could no longer work and that dialysis was needed to sustain my life. I was 45 years old.

After 5 months in Halifax, receiving dialysis treatment and preparing the life line in my left arm, I returned to Prince Edward Island. Here I underwent dialysis three days a week, 4 hours a day. BUT! There was a light at the end of the tunnel. Fortunately, I was a good candidate for a transplant because of my age and I had no other health complications. My sister was tested to see if she could be a donor but, to her dismay she was not able to be my donor. On the cadaver list I went.

To my surprise and overwhelming delight, I received the call on August 14th, 2006. I was to get to Halifax as soon as possible for they had a new kidney for me.

So, we scurried off. I received my transplant and it was a great success. I thank God, my doctors, the nurses, social workers, but most of all I thank my donor family. Without the gift I received from this family and their loved one, I don't know how much longer I would or could have waited to receive my special gift of life. I want to Thank-you from my heart and soul.

Please! Give The Gift Of Life!

My father, Alex's grandfather, was a dialysis patient. Initial tests showed I was a good match to donate a kidney to him and some preparations were made, but his health complications prevented that transplant from ever happening. May 1st, two days after Brian reaches North Cape, will be the 11th anniversary of my father's death. As well, in 2006 my mom had to have a kidney removed. She is in good health with her one remaining kidney. With that kind of family history and having done the tip to tip trip ourselves, Brian was one guy we just had to meet.

When my dad went through his years of dialysis, he lived in New Brunswick (where my mom still lives). I remember how, even after dialysis started, he was still able to come to PEI in the summer and visit his young grandchildren because a dialysis unit was set up at Marco Polo Land Campground to accommodate summer visitors on dialysis. So I was shocked to learn from Brian today about the realities of Islanders on dialysis. The shortage of dialysis chairs, the waiting list just to have dialysis on PEI, then having to travel to either Charlottetown or Summerside for it (especially if you live in East Point or North Cape) blew me away. As John Gallant explains in a Journal Pioneer article today:
"“It was like a part-time job that I had to go to and I hated it,” he explained.
Three times a week he headed out for about five hours of hemodialysis. Four hours on the machine and another half-hour each to get hooked and unhooked. Then the rest of the day feeling exhausted."
Add travel time to that (especially if you live in East Point or North Cape) and be very, very, glad that that is not *your* life.

The other story here is the fact that with so many Islanders in need of kidneys (and other organs & tissues), if you've signed a donor card, you'de better plan to die somewhere other than PEI because we have no team here to remove your organs & tissues for donation.

"In this three-part (CBC) series, Nancy Russell explores what makes it so difficult to donate organs on P.E.I., and some of the repercussions."

April 22-29 is National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week in Canada and Brian is out there raising that awareness in his own step by step, person by person, way. He certainly made me aware of a few things. Thank you Brian. Thanks also to PEI's media that are doing a great job of covering Brian's Walk4Life and keeping us posted on his daily schedule and to his sponsors for helping him make this all possible. Alex & I both know from experience how important & appreciated this kind of support is. We also know first hand the generosity of Islanders and trust they will be at least as supportive of Brian's Walk as they were of Alex's Run.

We met Brian today on the windy hills of Hunter River. Where we took the "byway" (the Trail), Brian is taking the "highway" (literally). We travelled only a few steps of his long walk with him but it was an absolute pleasure to meet him, to talk with & learn from him, to see the big smile on his well tanned face and shake his hand. It was a joy to celebrate life with you Brian, we wish you all the best, in your Walk and in your life.

Tomorrow Brian will pass through Kensington, the heart of PEI, walk on into Summerside, and end his day in Miscouche. If you're in Summerside, go meet him on the boardwalk and show your support. Visit Brian's Walk4Life page and make a donation and "Please! Give The Gift Of Life!"

Unfortunately my camera was set to video when this picture was snapped.
Brian's team got one on their camera so watch his site
and maybe we'll show up over there.

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