NB: Woman gives her friend a kidney donation

Colin Grieve and Brittany Hay wore

Colin Grieve and Brittany Hay wore “match made in heaven” t-shirts on the day of their surgeries. (Submitted by Kelsey Grieve – photo credit)

Brittany Hay uses one word to describe the moment she found out she was the perfect fit to donate her kidney to her boyfriend — mind blowing.

“At first you kind of don’t believe it would actually be him and I, but obviously the stars align,” Hay said.

Hay and her boyfriend, Colin Grieve, live in Smithfield, about 20 miles southwest of Fredericton. Last week they made the trip to Halifax for the life-changing surgery.

Grieve was born with polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disorder that causes fluid-filled cysts to grow in the kidneys. His father had the disease and Grieve was diagnosed when he was two or three years old and as he got older the disease progressed.

Submitted by Kelsey Grieve

Submitted by Kelsey Grieve

Last year, Grieve said he had been told his kidney function was at 10 percent and was eligible to undergo a transplant test.

He said he was nervous for Hay when he found out she would be his donor.

“But she didn’t want anything less… She had made up her mind,” he said. “If she couldn’t have donated, she would have been disappointed.”

Hay said no one in her family tried to talk her out of it and “everyone has been so supportive.” Still, she said everyone knew she made her decision and “I would do it anyway.”

CLOCK | ‘A Wonderful Gift’: Colin Grieve Receives a Kidney from His Perfect Match:

dr Ahsan Alam is a transplant nephrologist and director of the Polycystic Kidney Disease Clinic at McGill University Health Center in Montreal. He said polycystic kidney disease is the most common genetic cause of kidney failure in adults.

He said finding a donor for someone with the disease can sometimes be more complicated because if other family members also have it, they can’t donate.

Such was the case with Grieve’s sister, who he said found out she had the condition after agreeing to be tested as a potential donor.

“Unfortunately, people with PKD may have a smaller pool of people who can donate for them within their family because of the genetic condition they have,” Alam said.

Submitted by Kelsey Grieve

Submitted by Kelsey Grieve

But for Grieve, his donor pool spanned multiple games. Hay ended up being the one to donate, Grieve said, because she sped up the testing process by taking time off work and changing her schedule to make appointments.

After months of testing and preparation, the day had come.

Grieve said when the transplant date came, his creatinine levels were extremely high. Creatinine is a waste product that is normally filtered from the blood by the kidneys, but without properly functioning kidneys, creatinine can build up in the blood.

“It was really almost a miracle that we made it without doing dialysis,” he said.

Grieve and Hay were admitted to two separate floors of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Center in Halifax.

Grieve’s sister made t-shirts for the couple that read ‘match made in heaven’.

After the surgery, Hay said she was told about a funny coincidence. It was March 9th – World Kidney Day – a day dedicated to raising awareness of kidney health.

Although Grieve felt sore after the surgery, he said having a fully functioning kidney made him feel instantly more alert and has been getting stronger every day since.

At the moment he has three kidneys. Hay’s donor organ was placed in his groin because Grieve said removing the other two kidneys could have led to more complications, according to his surgeon.

Alam said leaving the two kidneys in place usually doesn’t cause any complications, but if they do, they can be removed at a later date. He said the donor kidney was connected to an artery, a vein and the bladder so it could function separately from the old kidneys.

Due to the nature of polycystic kidney disease, Alam said it will not recur in the transplanted kidney because it does not carry the gene mutation.

Submitted by Kelsey Grieve

Submitted by Kelsey Grieve

Alam said if someone wants to donate a kidney but isn’t a match for their loved one, there are other options, like the Kidney Paired Donation Program, which matches transplant candidates with eligible living donors, or provincial waiting lists, like the New Brunswick Organ and Tissue Donation Program .

Grieve said it was “a wonderful gift” for anyone engaged in giving.

And for Hay it was emotional to be able to give this gift.

“It was like our new life,” Hay said.

“We would be able to move past the fear of dialysis and all that and live a normal life.”


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