AHS: Living Kidney Gift a Life-changer

Friends share story for National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week

Story by Niall Emmott | Photo by Stacy Greening

GRANDE PRAIRIE — Stacy Greening loves to travel. She’s road-tripped around Alaska, explored the Irish and Scottish countryside and hiked Joshua Tree National Park. Back in 2010, however, she had no idea her next adventure would not only be medical, but would change someone’s life forever.

It all began when Stacy, a born and raised Albertan with a long career in healthcare, met Erin N. through their husbands who, at the time, worked together. At first, the women were merely acquaintances, only seeing each other at Christmas parties and work-related social events.

Through their common circle of friends, Stacy found out that Erin needed a kidney transplant and was actively looking for a living kidney donor, as a deceased donor kidney could take eight years. So Stacy reached out to Erin with an offer to be assessed as her potential donor.

“It’s hard to explain, but I felt that this was going to be my next adventure in life,” recalls Stacy, now a senior operating officer with responsibility for clinical health services at the QEII Regional Hospital and associated community programs, as well as addiction and mental health services across the North Zone.

Erin was realistic with Stacy about the living kidney donor assessment process, having gone through it already, without any success in finding a match. However, Stacy remained adamant that she wanted to try.

At the time, Erin underwent dialysis three times a week, which took a considerable toll on her work and activity.  Stacy attended some of Erin’s dialysis sessions to gain a deeper understanding what life is like for people who live with kidney disease. This further cemented Stacy’s resolve to become a living kidney donor.

Stacy met with a social worker from the living donor program in Edmonton and, over the next eight months, underwent a series of tests including blood tests, CT scans, physical exams and a psychological exam to ensure she understood what she was doing. By April 2011, Stacy was confirmed as Erin’s match.

Erin and Stacy’s surgeries took place at the University of Alberta Hospital on June 28, 2011. After five days in hospital, Stacy continued her recovery at home. After only two months, she resumed running, and within a year of giving her kidney, she ran a half-marathon.

“I am so thankful for the teams of people — from the lab techs to the surgical team — that helped us accomplish this,” says Stacy.

For Erin, having a functioning kidney gave her the freedom to go back to work and embark on her own adventure — the arrival of a baby boy.

It’s hardly a surprise that Stacy is his godmother.

“Erin and I have developed a strong friendship,” adds Stacy. “It’s hard not to when you share an experience like this. Erin and her family are now a part of my family.”

They’re sharing their story to raise awareness of National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week (NOTDAW), which runs April 21–27 this year, to celebrate organ and tissue donation and raises awareness about the critical need for more donors.

While Stacy gave Erin the gift of life, donating her kidney also changed hers.

“I think that’s why we get into healthcare in the first place — to have an impact on the lives of others,” she says.

“Waking up and hearing that my kidney was already working for Erin was a moment that I’ll always carry with me. You can’t even imagine how special that moment will be until you live it.”

Living Donation and Transplant Resources

Living Donor Services Transplant Services
University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton
Phone: 780-407-8698
Toll Free: 1-866-253-6833 (Canada only)
Email: livingdonors@albertahealthservices.ca

Southern Alberta Transplant Program
Living Donor Program in Calgary
Phone: 403-944-4635
Email: ALTRAFMC.Living.Donor@albertahealthservices.ca

For more information on living kidney donation or kidney transplantation, please visit myhealth.alberta.ca/HealthTopics/kidney-transplant.

Stacy Greening gave a thumbs up back in 2011 as she prepared for a medical adventure — donating a kidney to her friend Erin.