BAIE VERTE, NL — Melinda Saunders needs a new kidney. Without it, she will likely die.
If she doesn’t find a living donor, Saunders could be waiting up to five years for her life-saving transplant.
Saunders, 41, said the lengthy wait time is attributed to her rare blood type – Type B.
Formerly of Baie Verte, Saunders moved to the Deer Lake area with her family when she was 11. She didn’t leave Newfoundland until she was in her early twenties. She now lives just outside of Ottawa with her husband, Dave Bright.
Saunders has been diabetic since she was 23-years-old. Her kidney function was good until about three years ago, she said.
“I had pneumonia and I went into the hospital,” she said. “The doctor mentioned to me that the blood work they did showed I had some kidney damage.”
Following surgery to have her gall bladder removed two years ago, she was told her kidney function had decreased further.
“From there, it just seemed to go downhill in a hurry.”
Saunders has been on dialysis 10 hours a day, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., every day, for over a year and a half. Doing home dialysis means she can continue to work, she said.
Saunders is a human resources manager in the private sector. Her employer is very understanding, she said, and she hopes to continue working for as long as her health allows.
“I’ve worked all through my kidney failure. It gives me a reason. If it wasn’t for my job I don’t think I’d get out of bed a lot of days,” she said.
While home dialysis means she can still work, it also limits what she can do outside of daytime working hours.
“Even something as simple as going to a concert or a movie is just not possible anymore,” she said.
Saunders’ husband is in the military. Her father still lives in Baie Verte. She also has brothers living in other areas of the province, as well as in Ontario, where her mother also lives.
“I went down to Newfoundland to see my dad and my brothers when I found out that dialysis was soon going to be starting, because I didn’t know how long it would be before I got home again.”
You have to hope for the best and believe that, in the end, it’s going to work out.
Melinda Saunders, woman in need of transplant
About organ donation
According to the federal government’s Healthy Canadians website (www.healthycanadians.gc.ca), in 2014 more than 4,500 Canadians were waiting for organ transplants. That year, 2,356 organs were transplanted and 278 people died while waiting for their transplant.
Waiting times vary from a few months to several years, depending on a variety of factors. Saunders said she’s been told her wait could be up for five years.
One organ donor can save up to eight lives and help improve the life of more than 75 people.
Saunders said she can’t say enough about people taking the time to become organ donors.
“I’d love to get that second chance at life,” she said. “I would do everything I could afterwards to keep that kidney healthy.”
Saunders’ husband and other relatives and friends have already been tested as potential donors. Unfortunately, none have proven to be a match.
“I have a girl who contacted me over social media. We have the same blood type and she’s being tested. The testing takes several months,” Saunders said.
Saunders expects to get the news if the woman is a match in September.
In the meantime, she’ll continue to stay positive and wait, and hope a match is found.
“You can’t just wallow in self-pity,” she said. “You can’t just see the glass as half-empty. You have to hope for the best and believe that, in the end, it’s going to work out.
“There are good people out there willing to help people. I just have to believe that I’m going to come across that person that’s going to help me.”
For more information on organ donation visit www.cantransplant.ca or www.kidney.ca.