'I'm very hopeful': Mother of two seeks living kidney donor
VANCOUVER -- Alexis MacKay-Dunn is hoping to find an "angel" who can provide a life-changing gift: a living kidney donation.
The 38-year-old mother of two was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in 2018, during her first pregnancy with her son Hayden.
“The tricky part about most kidney diseases is there are no symptoms until it’s very late in the game,” she said. “It’s a silent disease.”
MacKay-Dunn has IgA nephropathy, an autoimmune disorder with an unknown cause.
“Basically my kidney, the way it functions, it spills protein, which then damages the kidney and its filtering functions, so my filters get blocked,” she said.
“So when we say things like I have less than 10 per cent function, that means all of my little filters in my kidneys have been damaged and scarred because of this disease.”
In early 2020, MacKay-Dunn said she and her husband had discussions with their health-care team about expanding their family.
“We were given a very small window to try for number two,” she said. “Another tricky part of kidney disease is we don’t know how fast it moves.”
She became pregnant, but this time things had become more challenging.
“Pregnancy’s very demanding on the average person, let alone soemone who’s managing a chronic illness,” she said. “We determined at 32 weeks that was time to deliver Sloane for my safety and for her safety.”
Her daughter Sloane was born Dec. 16, and spent just over a month in neonatal intensive care units at BC Women’s Hospital and at Lions Gate Hospital.
“She’s done really well,” MacKay-Dunn said.
Her husband Rob said his wife has been a "rockstar."
“We found out fairly early on in our second pregnancy that this was going to be a challenge, and she fought through it,” he said.
However, MacKay-Dunn’s health took a turn for the worse not long after. She went into acute kidney failure on Christmas Eve, just a week after Sloane’s birth, and was admitted to St. Paul’s Hospital for treatment.
As of today, MacKay-Dunn said she’s much more stable, but the need for a kidney transplant is now at the forefront.
“It would mean the world to me,” she said, fighting back tears. “It’s my life, and I want to be energized and the fun mom that I always hoped to be.”
She’s also hoping sharing her story will help increase awareness about living donation.
“We can help a lot of people, not just me,” she said. “I’m not the only one who needs a kidney.”
The medical director of the kidney transplant program at St. Paul’s Hospital, Dr. Jag Gill, said between 120 to 130 living donations happen each year in B.C., and added the province’s rates are amongst the highest in the country.
“The outcomes after you get the transplant is much better with a living donor transplant,” he said. “It makes sense because we put the donors through such a vetting process. We’re restricting it to people who have excellent kidney function that are very low-risk.”
Gill said people who donate a kidney also have excellent outcomes.
“People will live a full, healthy life,” he said. “People will be able to go on about their daily life, people can run marathons, you can do Iron Mans. It doesn’t impact your quality of life or your longevity in any manner.”
He said that again is due to the rigours of the screening process, the pace of which is led by the person who is interested in donating.
“The overriding priority with anybody who wants to donate one of their kidneys is to ensure that individual is going to have a good outcome,” he said, and added the process involves assessing the person’s health and wellbeing, both physically and mentally.
People who wish to donate can indicate a specific recipient, or seek to donate to someone they don’t know, but the process either way is anonymous.
MacKay-Dunn sent out a message to family and friends about her search earlier this week, and her story has now been shared more widely online.
Her husband said the response has been "tremendously positive."
“We just couldn’t be ore grateful for the amount of love and support and prayers that have been shared with us, and the amount of people that have shown an interest in actually being a living donor,” he said. “Alexis is the glue that keeps our family together...we need her to find a donor, not only for her own life but for the life of our young kids.”
MacKay-Dunn said she struggles with low energy, as well as high blood pressure which causes headaches, and "just generally not feeling well."
“I’m very hopeful that it will happen for us,” she said. “All I need is one kidney, and all everyone really needs is one kidney, which is magical in its own sense that we’re all born with two and only need one.”
Anyone interested in finding out more about living donation can contact the St. Paul’s Hospital Living Kidney Donor Program by calling 604-806-9027 or 1-877-922-9822, or by emailing DonorNurse@providencehealth.bc.ca.