Rizwana Ramzanali

Rec Picture
My Wife, My Hero…always.

I fell in love with Riz because of her zest in life, her independence, and her strength. Despite having been an insulin-dependent diabetic since the age of 9 years, she tried to live as normal a life as possible and why not? Her disease did not show. She overcame and dealt with any diabetic complications that came her way. She dealt with them with a smile. The one complication she could not overcome was renal failure. It changed her life completely and ours too… We were never able to plan for tomorrow; we learned to live each day as it came.

Riz’s life on dialysis began in November 1997. She quietly accepted her fate and even blamed herself for not trying to be a better diabetic. Riz dialyzed at University Hospital for 4 hours, 3 times a week. She called it her part time job! Dialysis took its toll on Riz. No matter how hard she tried to maintain her diet and fluid restrictions, she struggled. After a few years on dialysis, Riz developed hypoglycemic unawareness. She no longer felt her blood glucose levels drop. She could walk around confused and lost, until she collapsed or was rescued by strangers. It embarrassed her to explain her condition. I helplessly watched my wife slowly recede into a shell. When these episodes began to occur almost all the time, our then 8-year-old son, Junayd, became very frightened of his mum’s behaviour. He, however, assisted her through many of these moments – moments of which Riz has no recollection.

My work required me to travel for months at a time and I constantly worried. I felt just as helpless as she did because many a time I felt support was just not enough. As Riz’s condition deteriorated, so did my travels. It was a relief for my family when I was able to move my business to London.

No doubt, dialysis did help Riz feel better, but often, she was too tired afterwards to do anything and slept most of the time. Because she was unable to work, she volunteered with various charitable organizations.

Riz started to get assessed for a kidney transplant in March 2003. Her mum was hoping to donate her kidney. Unfortunately, things did not work out and even though mother and daughter were devastated, Riz remained hopeful. In March 2004, Riz was put on the transplant list as a kidney/pancreas transplant candidate. We were extremely excited because this meant that after a successful transplant Riz would no longer need dialysis or insulin. Life would be “normal” and we looked forward to that day. It was what kept Riz going.

It was one afternoon in August 2004. Junayd, Riz and I were about to go grocery shopping when the phone rang. I picked it up, spoke with the recipient coordinator at University Hospital and handed the phone to Riz. The colour on both our faces changed. We had just been informed that there was a possibility Riz was going to be transplanted!! Riz was numb and in a daze. Junayd and I left her alone for a while to allow her to gather her thoughts. She says while we were away, she dusted, cleaned, and made sure the refrigerator was stocked!! She packed and unpacked her bag a couple of times. Riz’s bag had been packed since March!!

Upon arrival at the hospital, Riz was admitted and we waited for her to be taken to the OR. She was overwhelmed with joy, but I felt a deep sadness within her for an individual whose life had been lost and for a family that had lost their loved one. We prayed for them and continue to do so, to this day. Riz’s surgery took 5 hours. When Junayd and I visited her after, she looked and felt so vital, had she not been under the influence of anesthesia, she would have gotten out of bed and planned her day and ours too!! She said she was “ready to conquer the world!”

Today I watch my wife live each day to its maximum. She cherishes every moment. Riz shares her story with a deep passion and is an active volunteer with Trillium Gift of Life Network and The London Transplant Gift of Life Association. She feels she is able to better guide Junayd with his diabetes, which he has had since he was 14 months old. We are now able to look forward to and plan for the future. 28 years as a diabetic, of which 7 years Riz spent on dialysis, are now a memory. One that Riz never wants to look back at with sadness.

Her journey could not have been made possible without the support from both our families, the nephrology team, the nurses in the dialysis unit and the transplant team. Each of them holds a very special place in Riz’s heart. She often says “she is attached to University Hospital by the hip!”

As for Riz’s donor and donor family, Junayd and I can never thank them enough for giving Riz the “Gift of Life”. Riz is forever grateful to her donor and her donor family for sharing with her the “true meaning of life”.

God bless.

By: Asgarali Ramzanali

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Last Updated July 24, 2008 | © 2007, LHSC, London Ontario Canada