Two friends and 100 kilometres

Bound by stillborn babies, online compatriots take on Kidney March


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/06/2011 (4140 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When Heather Plett’s son Matthew was stillborn, the St. Vital-based mother-of-three was overwhelmed by the response from friends and family.

“Suddenly you realize how much community support you have when you go through something like that,” Plett recalled, adding the painful experience was also transformative.

Now, Plett is on the other side of the table — part of the community support swelling around a friend, Calgary-based Cath Duncan, whose daughter was stillborn last October due to complications from Duncan’s kidney disease.

Arielle Godbout Heather Plett will be lacing up her runners for a three-day, 100-kilometre walk in September in support of her friend Cath Duncan and kidney disease research.

In September, Plett will travel to Alberta to walk alongside Duncan as the pair — and two other friends of Duncan — participate in the grueling 100-kilometre Kidney March.

The march, set for Sept. 9 to 11, will take participants from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to Calgary.

Duncan, Plett and their team hope to raise $45,000 for kidney disease research and are holding an online raffle — with $12,000 worth of prizes donated by lifestyle and business coaches, teachers and authors — to fundraise for the event.

Plett, who got to know Duncan online and has yet to meet her friend in person, said she felt drawn to her when the latter discovered her pregnancy was being complicated by her kidney disease.

“My kidney disease has not been a problem in the past,” Duncan explained, adding it’s a hereditary condition that seemed to only affect her blood pressure, which she managed with medication.

But pregnancy puts more and different stresses on the body, and Duncan’s doctors discovered the problem four months into her pregnancy.

“I felt great, I didn’t have any symptoms going on. But beneath the surface, my kidneys were struggling,” she said.

Two provinces away, Plett said she was there for Duncan when she needed someone to talk with, which allowed their friendship to grow stronger.

“It’s largely the babies that brought us together,” she explained.

After five month, Duncan’s daughter’s heart stopped beating.

“Because of my kidney condition, she wasn’t getting everything she needed to thrive,” Duncan explained.

“It feels like the bottom drops out of your world . . . I really found it hard to find anything that mattered after we lost her.”

Duncan spent five or six months feeling that way, until suddenly a web posting for the Kidney March caught her eye.

“Looking at the site, for the first time in five or six months, I heard that voice inside myself: I want to do this.”

Duncan had been walking  about five kilometres every few days — she, like Plett, describes the practice as meditative — and decided that, while 100 kilometres would be quite a challenge, she needed to affirm that little voice and find joy again.

She added she was overjoyed when Plett offered to join her team, named Team Juggernaut after Duncan’s daughter.

Although the two have yet to meet in person, Duncan described Plett as kind, compassionate and wise.

“She’s really the example of the way I’d like to find a way to live after loss,” she said, adding Plett’s solidarity during her pregnancy and loss was irreplaceable.

“It’s wonderful to know that I have a teammate who understands my journey on that level.”

As for Plett, though she lost her son due to a non-kidney-related condition, she said she’s excited about the walk as well as how well-supported the raffle has been so far — and how much it means to her friend and others living with kidney disease.

“It breaks my heart to think of someone like Cath who can’t live to her full potential because of the disease,” she said.

Tickets for the Kidney Raffle will only be available for sale from June 7 to 9, with the draw set to take place on June 16.

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