London Health Sciences Centre reaches kidney transplant milestones

April 21, 2015

April 19-25 is National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week, and London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) is celebrating it alongside two important milestone achievements: The Multi-Organ Transplant Program at LHSC has recently completed both the 2500th kidney transplant performed at the hospital, and the 500th living donor kidney transplant.

Kidneys from living donors have become an increasingly important resource in treating end-stage kidney disease. Recipients of kidney transplants from living donors enjoy better success rates compared with patients who receive a deceased donor kidney transplant. Also, the waiting time for transplant is much shorter than waiting for a deceased donor transplant.

“LHSC is a leader in organ transplantation in Canada, and we are proud that we have been able to provide 2500 kidney patients with a new lease on life since the program was founded in 1973,” said Dr. Patrick Luke, co-director of the Multi-Organ Transplant Program at LHSC. “Living donation is an important option for patients to consider, and in the case of our 500th living transplant donor and recipient, Mr. and Mrs. Mercier, I think they would agree it was the best choice for them.”

When Rick and Karen Mercier met on a popular online dating website three years ago, they knew instantly that they had found their perfect match. Little did they know how perfect it really was. 

Karen was diagnosed 27 years ago with a condition called IgA Nephritis, which occurs when a protein (IgA) that usually helps the body fight infections settles in the kidneys instead. The condition caused a slow deterioration of kidney function, ultimately damaging her kidneys to the extent that a transplant was necessary.

“It was difficult hearing the word transplant. I couldn’t bring myself to tell my children, at first, that I needed one, but Rick, of course, knew and offered immediately to be tested as a potential living donor match,” says Karen. Rick continues, “there was no question in my mind that if I was a good match for Karen, I wanted to be the one who donated a kidney to her.”

It was no surprise to Karen that Rick would be her knight in shining armour. Rick, a member of the Canadian Forces stationed at CFB London, knew of her nephritis when they met, and had supported her through three years of medical appointments and frustrating side effects of her condition, including fatigue, high blood pressure and severe itching that couldn’t be soothed. “I felt blessed when Rick came into my life and even more so when he offered such a selfless gift without hesitation,” says Karen.

Rick and Karen Mercier with Dr. Patrick Luke, co-director of the Multi-Organ Transplant Program at LHSC

“Living donor transplantation is not something that is taken lightly,” says Dr. Luke, “and there are numerous physical and psychological tests that need to be completed before a prospective donor is deemed a suitable match. The donation of a kidney is a significant decision. That being said, it is truly one of the most altruistic things a person can do – saving the life of another.”

Says Rick, “it took over nine months of testing before we were finally told we were a match, and a few weeks later, we were laying side by side, waiting to be wheeled into the operating room for the transplant.  My kidney was removed using the da Vinci robot, and I was home within a day and a half. Karen was home and well on the road to healing one week later. Through it all, we have known that this was meant to be. We met for a reason – we truly believe that – and now we can look forward to a long, healthy, happy life together.”

The Multi-Organ Transplant Program at LHSC is one of the leading transplant programs in Canada. On April 22 at noon, LHSC is hosting a tweet chat with Dr. Alp Sener, Transplant Surgeon, answering questions about organ donation and transplantation. Those on Twitter can follow along at @LHSCCanada and ask Dr. Sener questions during the live chat using #LHSCTransplant.