Awareness of organ donation could save lives | DrumhellerMail
Last updateFri, 14 Jun 2024 6pm

Awareness of organ donation could save lives


Everyone has the power to have a positive effect on others who are facing chronic health conditions, and often all it takes is signing an organ donor card.


 Ron Tremblay knows first hand how important organ donation can be. After six years he may soon be eligible to receive a kidney. This would make a huge impact on his life, and he is ready to drop everything if the opportunity arises.

Tremblay is a long time Drumheller resident.  He was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2006 when he was just 34 years old.

“At the time I really didn’t know I was sick. I was getting really bad headaches, and one thing I learned later on was that your kidneys control blood pressure and they control body temperature,” he said.  “So I went to the doctor and he checked my blood pressure and it was really high. He gave me blood pressure pills, but a side effect of the pills was that sometimes they affect kidney function. So he sent me down to get a kidney function test and that’s where they discovered my kidneys had failed.”

He explained his kidneys were functioning at about eight per cent.  For a person with a kidney functioning at 15 per cent, he said there are no outward symptoms. Once they drop below 10 per cent there is a notable health affect.

“That is how efficient your kidneys are. That is why transplant is such a viable option because everybody has 80 times the kidney function they need to live,” he said.

The diagnosis came as a shock. 

“I never lived a rough lifestyle, I never used drugs, and I never drank. I definitely didn’t expect it to happen to me,” he said. “They (doctors) said for some people it just happens.”

Outwardly few would even notice that Tremblay has only six per cent kidney function. He goes on living day to day, and is developing a successful pole photography business. By night however he spends it hooked up to his lifeline.

He undergoes peritoneal dialysis. For this treatment he has a tube in his abdomen, and while he sleeps, the treatment flushes impurities from his blood. The advantage of this treatment is he can do it at home while he sleeps, unlike hemodialysis, where the patient spends four hours hooked up to the machine four times a week.

Because of his treatment, travelling anywhere for more than a day trip is impossible.

Almost since the time he was diagnosed he has been on the kidney transplant list. Currently there is a seven-year wait, so his chance of getting a transplant is approaching. More than just having a kidney available, there is much more criteria.

“You have to be in good enough health to receive a kidney, and then they have to find someone that matches your blood type and there are several genetic markers that have to line up to be eligible,” said Tremblay.

When a match comes up, the window of opportunity is small. 

“I have and hour and a half to two hours to get to Calgary, because if a kidney sits too long it is unusable. So If I get a phone call I drop everything and go,” said Tremblay.

He said committing to being an organ donor is as simple as filling out the card. It is also important to talk to family and have them aware that this is your wish.

Kidney and liver transplants are possible from a live donor as well.

“Once a person has donated and gotten through the surgery, which is getting better and better, when they’ve recovered, they don’t feel any ill effects from losing the kidney. Life just goes on,” he said.

He said the key is awareness.

“A lot of people just don’t think about it until it happens to them, I never knew anything about kidney disease until the doctor gave me the news. It was the last thing I never thought about,” he said.

Tremblay believes that the demand will only rise. He has learned since he was diagnosed that diabetes is often a contributing factor to kidney disease.

“With diabetes increasing and becoming more commonplace it is only natural that kidney disease moves up the scale,” he said.

To learn more about organ donation in Alberta, go to the Southern Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Program website


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