Date: Friday, January 25, 2020
Home: Prince Albert Raiders Away: Medicine Hat Tigers
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Prince Albert, Saskatchewan S6V 2W8
Prince Albert family fights kidney disease for three generations
Kidney disease has always loomed over Hugo Bergren. He inherited it from his dad, who passed away from kidney failure when he was only 52 years old. Hugo himself was diagnosed at 30, and began dialysis in 2006. “I was driving to Saskatoon 3 times a week for dialysis in the evenings and still working full time during the day,” says Hugo. “The trips added up to about 900 km a week.”
That fall Hugo received a kidney transplant, allowing him to enjoy life with his wife Barb and daughter Yoland, as well as hunting, fishing and quad-biking in the lake district near Prince Albert. When a virus caused his transplant to fail in 2015, Hugo went back on dialysis, this time in a clinic near home, “which was great because I am still able to work part time, and don’t have to do all that driving,” he says. Hugo is now waiting and hoping for a new kidney. “To get back onto the transplant list, I had surgery to remove my left kidney which had so many cysts, there was no room for a transplant. It weighed 7.5 pounds.”
Daughter Yoland, diagnosed when she was 8 years old, is now 31, and healthy so far. “There weren’t many options in my day – things are slowly getting better,” Hugo says. Meanwhile, his loved ones are crossing their fingers that Hugo can find a kidney donor soon.
As season ticket holders, cheering on the Prince Albert Raiders was something the pair did often over the last decade of their 39-year marriage since Linda’s kidney transplant in 2005.
After her kidneys failed in 2003 as a result of an improperly treated kidney infection more than 30 years ago, Linda was on dialysis for two years before she received the gift of new life from her sister Esther in 2005. Esther was a near perfect match. The sisters have celebrated their ‘kidney-versary’ together on October 7th every year since.
In appreciation for the gift she received from her sister, Linda and Len, along with family and friends. have promoted organ donation in every way they can including participating in the Kidney Foundation’s Prince Albert Kidney Walk.
The family will also be on hand to help at the Raiders Don Cherry Organ Donation theme game September 30. This theme game will have extra special meaning for the Blocka family as they continue to spread the important message of organ donation in honour of Linda – their beloved wife, sister, mom, grandma, and long-time Raiders’ fan – who passed away suddenly from complications of hip replacement surgery earlier this year.
Having been through a lot this year, Leonard is looking forward to the game. “This game is a special opportunity for Raiders fans to support a cause that Linda strongly believed in. Hopefully fans will help honour her, and her commitment to the team, by helping spread the word about the importance of organ donation, the Gift of Life” he says.
Dirks family forever grateful to their son’s donor and the family
Dana and Janelle Dirks’ son Keaton is a happy, healthy 8-year-old who just started Grade 2, but four short years ago this was not the case.
In 2013, Keaton was diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy and secondary pulmonary hypertension. This difficult news set in motion a rollercoaster of events for the Dirks family. Within five days of diagnosis he was put on the transplant list and was fortunate enough to receive a transplant within eight months. However, even with the gift of a new heart, Keaton’s problems were still far from over.
For 28 long days, the Dirks waited for Keaton’s new heart to work. He was kept in the ICU in a medically-induced coma at the Edmonton Stollery Children’s Hospital, where doctors administered over 30 different medications to keep him alive.
“I remember going to the hospital on the 28th day and our doctor hugging us saying that Keaton’s heart had started working,” Keaton’s father Dana recalls. “We will always be tremendously grateful to the donor of Keaton’s new heart. There is no greater gift.”
Over the years, every time he has had a medical test or procedure, Keaton receives a new bead to add to his string. Keaton’s “treasure beads” string now stretches to over 30-feet. He proudly showed it off at the Prince Albert Raider WHL hockey game on Saturday, September 30th.
“We’ve sent thank you letters to the family of Keaton’s donor. There aren’t enough words,” says Dana. “When asked how I can encourage others to donate, I show them my son. So full of life and energy. That’s what it’s all about.”
Keaton was the guest of honour at the game, where he dropped the ceremonial puck in front of friends and family and a full house of Raider-faithful.
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Don & Blue, his white Bull Terrier.
1000 fans at each game will get a Don Cherry bobblehead doll.
Bid live at the game for your favourite player’s custom Don Cherry-signed, game-worn Jerseys. Bidding ends after the game.