'My son needs me': Kidney donor desperately sought for single mom
Published Wednesday, May 17, 2017 4:55PM PDT Last Updated Thursday, May 18, 2017 7:44AM PDT
A single mother is hopeful that she'll find a living donor to buy her more time with her young son.
Shabrina Rahim, 38, has an autoimmune disease, and spent a year on dialysis a decade ago while she waited for a donor.
In her 20s at the time, she was sad that she was the youngest person at the hospital where she'd received the treatment, but what kept her going was the knowledge that somewhere there were children going through the same thing.
A family member was a match to her O positive blood type, and made the donation that saved her life at the time.
"It was the best news," she told CTV Vancouver's Maria Weisgarber from her home in Surrey on Wednesday.
"I don't even know how to thank him and his family for doing what he did. He gave me another life."
And soon she shared her new life with a little one, giving birth to her son Sahil three years later.
Calling Sahil – who is now seven years old – her "miracle baby," she said she had some great years with the transplanted organ. She was able to spend time with her close-knit family and run around after her growing boy.
But she knew that the kidney wouldn't last forever, and was told she could expect about 10 years with it before things went south. In October 2016, she started feeling familiar symptoms, and knew her days with the transplant were numbered.
Just two weeks shy of her 10-year transplant anniversary, Rahim was forced to go back on dialysis.
"It's been a rough five months for me," she said.
What started as three sessions a week turned to nine-hour sessions every night, and sometimes she needs treatment during the day as well.
"Dialysis is not painful, it makes you tired after your treatment… but it gives you hope that you have another way to live," she said.
Doctors have said that the best solution would be to find another donor, but there are more than 500 people waiting for a kidney in B.C., so she could be waiting for years.
"Unfortunately, no matter how many donors we've had we've not gotten close to meeting the need," said Dr. David Landsberg from BC Transplant.
He said things are better than five years ago, especially with deceased donor rates, and the number of living donors has remained fairly stable.
"People who need a kidney transplant get the best outcomes if they can find a living donor," the Kidney Foundation of Canada's Heather Johnson said.
So the foundation has recently launched a mentorship program connecting past and future donors, which it helps will encourage more people to consider the procedure.
"Not only can you help someone live their life, but you can live a perfectly fine life with one kidney," she said.
Rahim is hoping to find a living donor so she can spend less time on dialysis and in hospitals, and more time with her family. Her aunt suggested she take her search to social media, and within days, hundreds had shared her story on Facebook and thousands had seen the post.
"It's amazing how I have so many people that have reached out," she said.
She's had so many messages that she hasn't been able to keep up with responses, but said she plans to write back to every person.
Not all the messages have been from potential donors, but they've been supportive of her challenges, and those have been meaningful to her as well.
"I've reconnected with people I haven't seen for 20-something years," she said.
"It's phenomenal, and I'm so touched."
While she hasn't found a donor yet, she said the response has given her a lot of hope: "I'm sure there's an angel out there to help me."
When asked what a donation would mean to her, her eyes filled with tears.
"A lot. My son needs me," she said.
"There are days that, when he comes in, he's like, 'Mom, are you going to be OK? I need you in my life.' So to me, having another transplant will give me more time with my son to see him grow up."
Visit the BC Transplant website to register to be a donor or to learn more about the province's transplant system.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Maria Weisgarber