Gifts of Gratitude Donor Story: Dawn Rennie

September 24, 2018

At the age of 35 Dawn Rennie and her husband Steve were both busy keeping up with their two young children Jeff and Jana. After a series of bladder infections and then kidney infections, she felt like she just couldn’t shake being sick.
During a stay at the hospital to treat another kidney infection, she was diagnosed with IgA Nephropathy, also known as Berger’s disease; a kidney disease that occurs when IgA deposits build up in the kidneys, causing inflammation that damages kidney tissues. What she soon learned was that the disease has no cure and that the ultimate goal of treatment is to prevent or delay end-stage kidney disease.
Dawn began working with a nephrologist to manage her condition and diet. For more than 20 years she was able to live a relatively normal life.  In 2012, that all changed. Dawn was experiencing nausea and stomach aches – her kidney function was declining.
Even though she did not want to admit she needed it, her nephrologist Dr. Lagrotteria and the rest of her health care team began preparing her for the reality that she would need to go on dialysis if her kidney function continued to decrease.
Right before Christmas in 2014, Dawn and her entire family came down with the flu. When everyone got better, Dawn continued to get worse. Dawn knew something was not right. When she was at the hospital for a routine Mammogram, she went up to the Nephrology department to be assessed.
“My condition was overtaxing my body and putting a strain on my overall health,” remembers Dawn. “My heart was under extreme stress and I was at a high risk of a stroke.”
She was immediately admitted and she stabilized soon after. In January, Dawn began dialysis treatments and was added to the transplant list. She remembers how caring and understanding the staff at the St. Catharines Hospital were through the whole process. The guiding help of her nurse Arden and the rest of the team, made all the difference.
Sadly, although every member of her immediate and extended family got tested to be a donor, none of them were ideal matches. In an effort to do whatever they could to help find their mother a kidney, her two children Jeff and Jana added themselves to the Kidney Paired Donation program.
While they waited to see if they would be matched through the program, Dawn began daily dialysis at home. For three year she underwent 10 hours of dialysis each night while she slept, even taking the machines with her when they travelled.
In late 2017, the Paired Donation program came through and her daughter was set to donate a kidney to someone in Vancouver in December, while Dawn received a kidney in Ontario. In excitement, Jana’s coworkers at the Niagara Children’s Centre School fundraised for Jana’s trip out west. A month before the transplant, everyone was devastated when she came down with a serious infection and a perforation in her bowel that required surgery. Her planned transplant and her daughter’s donation were both cancelled and Dawn was removed from the program until she could get better.
For the next few months Dawn fought to get better. “I have children and grandchildren, so I knew that I had to fight,” explains Dawn. “I knew that a transplant would be the best possible outcome, so that I could be here for another 20 years or more.”
Due to her condition, Dawn was switched from daily dialysis at home to hemodialysis at the hospital three times a week for four hours each. Despite the treatment feeling like a never ending cycle, wearing her down, Dawn never gave up hope that she would receive a transplant.
On June 19th 2018 at 5:00 p.m. they got the call. There was a young donor on life support in Hamilton who was a possible match. Dawn and her family rushed in for further testing. By midnight it was confirmed, it was an ideal match. Dawn’s transplant took place mere hours later at 4:00 a.m.
After three and a half years of dialysis and 30 years of dealing with her kidney disease, she has never felt better. She realized that like so many others with kidney disease, feeling unwell had become her norm. She feels so lucky and will be forever grateful for the donation she received.
As she looks back on her care, she knows that she could not have done it without her family and her care team at Niagara Health. “My family and I have the most appreciation to Dr. Lagrotteria, the Peridialysis unit and the Hemodialysis unit for guiding us through the challenges we have faced over the last four years.”
To thank the team for their extraordinary care, the funds raised by the Niagara Children’s Centre School staff were donated as a Gift of Gratitude in support of Kidney Care at Niagara Health.

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