'It's not the end of the road'

Three times a week, former Cranbrook resident Sharon Waurynchuk heads to the fourth floor of the Penticton Regional Hospital for hemodialysis.

She’s one of 40 people that spend between 12 and 16 hours a week at the hospital hooked up to a machine that cleans patient's blood. 

After living with kidney disease for 14 years in the Kootenays, Waurynchuk moved to Penticton at the start of 2017 when her doctor told her she had to start dialysis.

“It was something I knew was coming,” she said, adding she picked Penticton because it has a pair of highly-recommended nephrologists.

Waurynchuk has found a donor, but more tests are needed.

She said she also needs to gain some weight before a transplant can take place, recalling a conversation with a nephrologist who noted her extremly thin stature.

“He said ‘we have to be careful, you might not survive and we’ve taken a kidney from someone else.’”

“I’m trying to fight back so that I can have a transplant,” Waurynchuk said, by still regularly exercising while on dialysis.

“I’m at the gym, the rec-plex, trying to make it through, walking the stairs even when you don’t feel like it — just trying to keep going.”

She hopes the transplant will allow her to return to her previously very active life filled with hiking and yoga, which she is still trying to do, “but it’s a big difference in terms of fatigue.”

Waurynchuk was visited Friday by local Kidney Foundation volunteer Annick Lim, who was conducting outreach for dialysis patients informing them of support options, and dropping off a pair of thermal socks.

“Dialysis patients are always cold,” she said, due to anemia and the dialysate fluid entering the body at a temperature colder than body temperature. 

Lim had her own kidney transplant 19 years ago in her early 20s, but was diagnosed with kidney disease at 18 months.

Since then, she has volunteered with the Kidney Foundation including organizing the annual kidney walk.

“It’s just a thought that I had, how can I make dialysis just a little bit more comfortable for the patients,” Lim said, referring to the socks.

She added many dialysis patients are not aware of the support offered to them by the foundation, like grants for transportation to dialysis and medical appointments as the majority of them are not able to work.

For anyone just starting to have issues with their kidneys, Waurynchuk says “it’s not the end of the road.”

“You can live with kidney disease, for, well I did it 14 years. By looking after yourself… It’s a big, big change. Big lifestyle change, but it’s possible.”

The BC Kidney Walk takes place every September.

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