Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Classified ad seeks kidney

Woman gets fed up waiting 10 years for new organ

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Mary Wasylenko has spent 10 years waiting for a phone call to tell her a kidney is available for transplant.

After spending five of those years at the top of the transplant list to no avail, the 66-year-old Wasylenko decided to take matters into her own hands.

The Winnipeg woman bought a personal ad in the classified section of last Saturday's Winnipeg Free Press.

"I thought about it for quite a while," Wasylenko said Tuesday.

"I need a kidney. A friend said 'Why don't you advertise in the Free Press?' Then I heard on the news two people put something on Facebook and they got a transplant. I'm too old to use a computer so I thought sure I'll put it in the paper."

Just above an advertisement looking for carriers to deliver flyers and below another advertising a collectibles-antiques fundraising sale by the St. James Museum, the small ad appeared under the heading: Senior needs kidney. Could someone donate?

The ad has only sparked one call from a man whom she will meet this week to see if he is compatible for a transplant and, most importantly, if he is really interested in donating.

"It would be devastating if you're all hepped up and ready to go and then he changes his mind," she said.

Wasylenko, who turns 67 next week, said no family member is available to donate and her daughter also has the disease, which destroyed her kidneys.

"I have dialysis three days a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, and it completely wipes out the whole day. All you want to do is sleep.

"It also means I can't work. Where can you work on only Tuesday and Thursday?"

Wasylenko said health officials have assured her it is not her age that has kept her from getting a kidney; it's there are lots of people waiting for kidneys. As well, three times during the years she has waited she has had to be temporarily taken off the list while undergoing surgery for other issues as well as recovery time.

Wasylenko said she wishes the donor-card system for organ donation could be changed.

"Why not just sign the card if you don't want anything taken for transplants? I once talked to someone who said if they did it that way, there wouldn't be a waiting list for transplants."

Transplant Manitoba says Wasylenko is one of 262 Manitobans on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.

Dr. Faisal Siddiqui, an organ-donor doctor with Transplant Manitoba, said he "can appreciate how difficult it is for a patient to sit on a wait list." But he said this is not the way to get a kidney. "A patient can look for their potential donors in a number of ways, but we don't encourage anyone to take an ad out in the paper or through social media to request potential living donors to step forward," he said.

"There needs to be an established relationship between the donor and the recipient for a directed donation to take place."

Transplant Manitoba officials said it is illegal for anyone to buy or sell a kidney.

Siddiqui said if a patient doesn't have a family member or friend who offers a kidney, they can receive a kidney from a deceased donor, including those who have previously registered on or from an anonymous donor in the living donor paired exchange program.

Val Dunphy, executive director of the Kidney Foundation of Canada, Manitoba branch, said she is concerned about kidney donation wait times because 80 per cent of Manitobans waiting for organ transplants are waiting for kidneys.

"As the voice for kidney patients in Manitoba, we are concerned that we have the second-highest occurrence rate of kidney disease in Canada and the second-longest wait time for transplant," Dunphy said in an emailed statement.

Wasylenko said the clock is ticking louder now for her. About a year ago, she had to have the device taken out of her arm that allowed the dialysis and have one inserted in the side of her neck. She said there is no other place to put it.

"They say they work about three to five years. I need a new kidney."

Is a classified ad seeking a kidney an indication we need a better system for organ donations? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 5, 2014 A3


Updated on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 6:41 AM CST: Replaces photo, adds question for discussion

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