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Botwood woman’s journey with dialysis means a shifting normal

The third annual Kidney Walk in Gander took place at the Cobb’s Pond Rotary Park on Sept. 15. Hosted the Gander chapter of the Kidney Foundation of Canada, this year’s event was hailed by organizers as its biggest yet.
The third annual Kidney Walk in Gander took place at the Cobb’s Pond Rotary Park on Sept. 15. Hosted the Gander chapter of the Kidney Foundation of Canada, this year’s event was hailed by organizers as its biggest yet. - Nicholas Mercer

Carla Thompson went on dialysis for the first time when she was 20 years old. 

As a child, the 42-year-old Botwood resident was prone to urinary tract infections that caused significant damage to her kidneys. At the age of 19, she was diagnosed with kidney disease. 

For the next six years, Thompson underwent dialysis three days a week until the age of 26. It left her feeling lethargic and drained. 

She underwent a kidney transplant after receiving the organ she needed from a cadaver.

That kicked off a 12-year healthy period The time frame was two years beyond what is expected of an organ transplant from a cadaver, she said,

Until about a year ago. 

She started feeling sick and soon discovered her body had started rejecting the transplant. 

“I was really sick for two or three months,” said Thompson. “I had stopped eating and was very nauseous.” 

The complication meant she was forced to go back on dialysis. This time, however, Thompson had a choice. 

She could choose to take dialysis the usual way by going to the dialysis unit at the hospital or start a home-based treatment with a procedure called home hemodialysis. 

Thompson chose the home unit. It increased the number of treatments she undergoes during the week to five times at three hours a piece. 

“With that said, I was so sick, I was ready to start again,” she said. “When the doctor told me it was time to start dialysis again, I was not surprised because I was so sick and it made me know that I was going to feel better. 

“Dialysis is a hard treatment but it does make you feel better.” 

Thompson chose the home unit — which is about the size of a suitcase — because it would allow her to work and maintain a semblance of a life away from the machine. 

“This allows me to do evening treatments, not overnight, and not lose any work time,” she said. 

Thompson is currently waiting for another transplant. 

She was one of many dozens of people who took part in the annual Kidney Walk hosted by the Kidney Foundation of Canada’s Gander chapter. It was held on Sept. 15 at Cobb’s Pond Rotary Park in Gander. 

Grey clouds threatened to put a damper on the day’s festivities, but as people started registering for the event the skies started to clear. 

The mix of a slight breeze and some sun made for an enjoyable walk for the many people who attended the festivities. There were also musicians, a barbecue and door prizes for those in attendance. 

Thompson remembers going to a walk of this nature in Grand Falls-Windsor years ago, but it wasn’t as well attended as they are now. 

The event raised more than $21,000 dollars for kidney research. It is an indication of the support the Gander chapter receives. In 2018, the group was among the top fundraisers in Canada. 

When she started feeling ill again, Thompson was forced to make 13 trips from her home to St. John’s for a number of reasons. 

The foundation was able to help her out with money for accommodations, gas and meals. 

“They have really helped out in that sense,” said Thompson. “They really give to their patients.  

“You shouldn’t have to worry about the financial part of it.” 

Having to start over is never easy. Routines get shattered and what was a normal day becomes something different altogether. 

Thompson had to get used to a world that involved dialysis. The new had become old again and she had to get over that mentally. 

“It was a big adjustment because I was so healthy for 12 years and before that I was on dialysis for six years, so I only knew sickness,” she said. “It took an adjustment for my husband and I to go back there, but it is a lot better now with this home dialysis.” 

Gander chapter growing

The Gander chapter of the Kidney Foundation of Canada is on an upswing. 

This year’s Kidney Walk, with its many dozens of walkers, was its largest yet. It is expecte to grow as kidney disease touches more and more people. 

Guy Goldsworthy has been a part of the walk from the start. As the president of the local chapter, he is known for his relentless attitude when it comes to promoting the walk and the work done by the rest of the committee — Arlene Martin, Corenna Goldsworthy, Clayton Pritchett and Pat Pritchett.

“There are only four walks in Newfoundland and this one is growing,” said Goldsworthy. 

The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and this year’s event raised more than $21,000 dollars for the foundation.

The group attributes that growth in support to increased awareness and long-term commitments by participants. People get involved one year and keep coming back, the group said. 

“I’ve been on dialysis for 10 years and I’m very passionate about kidney disease,” said Goldsworthy. “We raise money and help he program.” 

The group does more than the Kidney Walk. They hold a yearly ticket lottery, as well as an annual Christmas dinner for patients, their families, healthcare providers and families touched by organ donation, among other events. 

It also offers financial assistance to patients and there is an educational component to the work they do.

“You feel so good because everyone gives and that makes the walk a success,” said Martin 


About kidney disease

  • 1 in 10 Canadiens has kidney disease;
  • The leading cause of kidney disease is diabetes (39 per cent);
  • Since 2008, the number of people living with kidney disease has grown 35 per cent;
  • The number of new renal failure patients under the age of 65 is 46 per cent;
  • Nearly 49,000 Canadians are being treated for kidney failure
  • Of those with end-stage kidney disease, 58 per cent are on dialysis and 42 per cent have a functioning transplant
  • There is no cure for kidney disease;
  • In 2016, kidney disease was the 11th leading cause of death in Canada
  • Information courtesy the Kidney Foundation of Canada

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