Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Ontario man giving neighbor his kidney

By Grant Lafleche QMI Agency

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — So far as Breanna Elliotson is concerned, her next-door neighbor is crazy.

Gilbert Lizotte doesn't owe her anything. But he was in a position to help, so he did.

"She is a really great kid," Lizotte said of Elliotson, a student at Brock University. "I didn't really have to think about it. She needed my help, so I volunteered."

But what Lizotte volunteered to do is much bigger than lending his friend his snow shovel. Next week he will give the 20-year-old psychology student his right kidney.

"He's crazy. I keep telling him that. He is totally crazy," Elliotson said.

In 2009, Elliotson was heading off to school at Nipissing University and had some medical tests done before she left her home in St. Catharines.

"I had never had blood work done so I said, what the heck I'll get it done before I leave," she said.

The tests revealed her kidneys were failing. Before long she had to go on dialysis and a workmate volunteered to donate her kidney.

The transplant operation was last March. Elliotson had to leave school and miss her exams for a six-week recovery. But there would not be a happy ending. A problem with the transplant resulted in her new kidney not getting enough blood and it died, she said.

She was grateful for the donation, but upset the process did not work.

Back on dialysis, Elliotson was unsure if someone else would be brave enough to part with a kidney.

From Lizotte's point of view, donating his kidney isn't an act of bravery. It's what friends do.

He said Elliotson and her mother moved next door nine years ago and they became like family.

"When her mother first told me that Breanna needed a transplant, I volunteered right away," he said. "But a friend of hers had already gone through the testing."

When the original transplant failed, Lizotte. 49, stepped up again. He had a kidney to spare, he said, and after extensive testing was approved as a donor.

"It means for me that I will have to visit the medical profession more often for the rest of my life," he said. "But for me, the operation is safe."

The Kidney Foundation of Canada said the transplant operation for the donor is indeed safe, although spokeswoman Irene Aguzzi said anyone considering a donation needs to talk to a doctor as a first step.

Around 40% of kidney transplants are done from a live donor, and Aguzzi said there are about 3,000 people in Canada waiting for a kidney.

"This is all amazing to me," Elliotson said. "At dialysis I have met people who have been waiting for years for a kidney donation. I'm pretty lucky."

The transplant surgery is scheduled for Feb. 9.

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