Her kidney transplant lasted a surprising 42 years, but now she needs another one

Deby Nash celebrated the 42nd anniversary of her kidney transplant on March 1st.  (Submitted by Deby Nash - photo credit)

Deby Nash celebrated the 42nd anniversary of her kidney transplant on March 1st. (Submitted by Deby Nash – photo credit)

For 42 years, another’s kidney has kept Deby Nash off dialysis, giving her independence and the freedom to live a life of adventure.

Well past its expected lifespan, that kidney begins to fail, and Nash hopes life as she knows it isn’t over yet.

Nash underwent a successful kidney transplant on March 1, 1981 in Montreal. At the time, she was told that the kidney would last five to ten years. According to the Kidney Foundation of Canada, only about half of transplanted kidneys are still functioning after 10 years.

After 42 years, the 70-year-old Fredericton resident isn’t shocked that her transplanted kidney is tiring, but she still hopes to qualify for another transplant so she can retain her energy and independence.

“I’m in the phase now where I’m just working on being at peace with all of this,” Nash said. “Half of me is moving towards dialysis. The other half is crossing fingers, toes and all that my name is on the transplant list because that’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for this patient. I don’t know what’s going to happen, so I’d rather stay hopeful until I get a definitive answer.”

She had previously been on dialysis and hoped to avoid it in the future.

Nash was first diagnosed with kidney failure while pursuing a master’s degree from Concordia University in Montreal. She felt really tired and assumed she was low on iron.

She went to a clinic where she took a blood test, then another, then was asked to go straight to the hospital across the street. She was a 24-year-old working university student and said she was completely shocked when she was diagnosed with glomerulonephritis, an inflammation of the kidney’s tiny filters.

“They took me across the street to the hospital and within half an hour I was in intensive care and someone was sticking a tube up my stomach,” Nash said.

“Later I was told it was peritoneal dialysis. From then on dialysis started and I was on dialysis for three years until I got my first transplant.”

Submitted by Deby Nash

Submitted by Deby Nash

Nash first received a kidney transplant from her sister in Montreal in 1979 as a living donor. That transplant only lasted about a year and a half before she was forced back on dialysis because that kidney also succumbed to the same disease.

Months later, on March 1, 1981, Nash received a second kidney transplant from a deceased donor.

This transplant freed Nash. She had finished her studies at Concordia while on dialysis and after her transplant she moved to Ottawa to work as a lecturer at Carleton University.

However, Nash wasn’t done traveling just yet. She said she then moved to the Bahamas, where she lived for nearly 20 years, teaching English and writing for news publications.

“I’ve had a wonderful, creative and colorful life with my transplant,” Nash said. “It is very difficult for me to imagine having to get used to dialysis. It feels like I’m going backwards to tell the truth.”

Nash said she returned to New Brunswick, where she grew up, to care for her late mother after her father died about 10 years ago.

In 2015, Nash’s medical team discovered a cancerous tumor in her kidney. Still determined to survive, she underwent surgery in Halifax to remove the tumor, which was successful despite difficult odds.

Early last year, her monthly blood tests, which she’s had to take since receiving the transplant, showed her creatinine levels were rising. Nash said it was a sign her transplanted kidney was starting to fail.

Submitted by Deby Nash

Submitted by Deby Nash

Nash said she was left in “Limboland” to see if she qualified for another kidney transplant. She says she’s not giving up just yet.

Realizing that renal failure was imminent, she immediately took steps to determine if she was eligible for another transplant from the Multi-Organ Transplant Program of Atlantic Canada, based at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Center in Halifax located.

Nash’s medical team advised her that the process to complete all the necessary tests and vaccinations usually takes about a year, but she said she completed them in six months. Since then she has been forced to wait and worry.

“I don’t even have words to describe how I feel right now because I can literally feel my body deteriorating,” Nash said.

According to a spokesman for Nova Scotia Health, while the health screening tests and procedures that result in a potential recipient being placed on the transplant list in Atlantic Canada follow standardized criteria, the process often looks different for individuals, depending on the individual , which has led to organ failure.

Nash said the testing is extensive, and the team evaluating someone for the transplant waitlist may request additional testing. She gave the example of her nephrology team requesting a report on her skin health from her dermatologist because the steroids and other medications that a transplant recipient must take post-transplant to prevent rejection can cause skin problems, and they inquired about that cancer risk.

“You test all parts of your body for transplantation,” Nash said. “You don’t want to waste a human kidney and I respect that part.”

March is Kidney Health Month

March is Canada’s Kidney Health Month and the number of patients with end-stage kidney disease in Canada continues to rise, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

Their figures show a 24 percent increase in patients receiving either dialysis or a preventive kidney transplant (performed before dialysis was required) across Canada between 2012 and 2021, although their data excludes Quebec.

The Atlantic Canada Kidney Transplant Program performs approximately 80-100 kidney transplants annually. According to statistics from the Multi-Organ Transplant Program of Atlantic Canada, at the end of 2022, 191 people were awaiting kidney transplants and four people awaiting kidney and pancreas transplants in Atlantic Canada.

Last year, 74 kidney transplants were completed — 24 of them were patients from New Brunswick.

According to the Kidney Foundation of Canada, damaged kidneys do not heal.

Nash finds little comfort in knowing the symptoms to come as her transplanted kidney continues to fail. She has already started planning home dialysis in the coming months.

“Those who are aware of my journey only say: ‘Where do you get the strength from?’ I want to say it is the chutzpah that comes from my Jewish mother. I don’t even know how to answer that. I surprise myself because most people would have given up at this stage and it’s so much easier to give up.

“I’m a fighter, so I’m going to think positively, keep asking questions, keep trying to take care of myself.”


Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button