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'She's my hero': B.C. SAR volunteer receives kidney transplant from spouse of another volunteer
VANCOUVER -- Mike Coyle sits in his hospital gown with his laptop perched in his lap, proudly wearing a Coquitlam Search and Rescue cap.
"This is our 50th anniversary logo," he says, smiling through a Skype interview.
Coyle is recovering at Vancouver General Hospital from a kidney transplant he underwent on Friday, after two decades of living with polycystic kidney disease.
"We got it done," he said. "The kidney is working really well."
Coyle is a long-time member of Coquitlam SAR, also serving as the team's media spokesperson.
But due to the exhaustion that comes with a degenerative kidney disease, he had to curtail many of the more physical aspects of his volunteer role.
In 2017, on the advice of his doctor, he began quietly canvassing family and close friends, in hopes of finding a living kidney donor, but no one was a match.
The search was expanded on social media, and eventually, he received a call from a fellow team member he's known for 20 years, who said his wife Jody had some news to share.
The phone call happened while Coyle was driving back from Squamish last fall.
"She never told me she was being tested because she didn't want to get my hopes up," Coyle said.
Overcome with emotion, Coyle said he had to pull over.
"I was just on the side of the road, looking over Howe Sound and thinking, what a momentous thing this was for someone to be giving me a kidney."
But all thoughts of a transplant were quashed earlier this year, when BC declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19, triggering the cancellation of thousands of surgeries, including transplants.
Coyle hunkered down, and began watching the daily case numbers like a hawk, all while trying to stay healthy.
"I was on pins and needles," he said. "Because if I were to get COVID-19, it would be pretty drastic."
But once B.C. began to flatten its curve, there was a glimmer of hope and Coyle was told surgeries were being scheduled, and his was on the books.
So on Friday, Coyle and his donor Jody underwent their respective surgeries, to resounding success.
Coyle's new kidney began working immediately, and while he's experiencing some post-surgery pain, he could be discharged as early as Tuesday.
Having a kidney transplant in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic means that Coyle is isolated in his hospital room, because vistors are not allowed.
He's been staying in touch via Skype, and even had a video chat with his dog.
Coyle will have to continue to take extra precautions when he is discharged.
"For the foreseeable future, you'll see me, and I'll look perfectly healthy, but I'll be walking down the street with a mask, and I'll be backing up if you try to approach me," Coyle said.
He urged people to continue physical distancing, for the sake of his health, and others like him.
"People need to realize there's a lot of members of our society who are still in Phase 1 even if they are in Phase 2."
For now, Coyle is looking forward to taking his young son hiking, once he regains his strength.
As for his donor Jody, she was discharged on Monday.
"She's my hero for sure," Coyle said. "It's a pretty incredible gift."