Date: Friday, January 31, 2020
Home: Red Deer Rebels Away: Winnipeg Ice
4847 A 19 Street
Red Deer, Alberta T2R 2N7
Cindy Cherry’s Story
“How fortunate am I that I could help Tim in his battle against kidney disease” recalls Cindy Cherry how over 40 years after she donated her left kidney to her brother. “Listen, I had the opportunity to help Tim get his health back on track and let me tell you, if there was anything I could do to help him, no questions asked, I was going to do it.”
Cindy and Tim’s journey began 4 decades ago, having just graduated from college, she went home to Boston, where her dad was coaching to Bruins. Life was good, and she was contemplating what her future would bring.
However, Cindy had no idea of the surprise that was in store for her when she arrived home to find her brother gravely ill. “Sick doesn’t even describe it. He looked like a ghost when I first saw him. I was told he had kidney failure and required dialysis to stay alive.” How did this happen? What is dialysis? Will my brother be ok? These were all questions she recalls asking herself.
Despite her shock, Cindy first thought was how can I help? Remembering the events, Cindy says “there was no discussion about it. He needed a kidney, I have an extra one, so what do we need to do to make it happen.” Testing started immediately and just three weeks later, Cindy was told she was a match. October 10th (1978) was the day her brother was going to get a second lease on life.
Tim was on dialysis for about 4 or 5 months – the memory is a bit cloudy 40 years later – “but that was 4 or 5 months too long” remarks Cindy. I know things have changed in terms of detection, prevention, and transplantation today compared to 1978, but our transplant system is still a long way from perfect. She questions “Why aren’t folks getting a pre-emptive transplant? Why are we waiting until people need dialysis before they get on the list? Why are patients getting so sick that they become ineligible for a transplant?”
As a living donor who was out of the hospital in 5 days, fully back into her routine 4-5 weeks later, and who has never had a complication resulting from recycling her parts, this is the biggest message Cindy leaves with people: “We all have 2 kidneys, but we only need 1. Too many Canadians are needlessly suffering. If there is something you can do to help your family, friend, neighbour, or just someone in your community why wouldn’t you do it?”
She continues “Canadians need to do better. From government to communities because as a country, we aren’t doing enough to support organ transplantation” and to patients waiting for a new organ, Cindy says “be your own advocate. Don’t be afraid to take control of your journey because it is your health at stake. And don’t be afraid to ask your loved ones to donate – you will be surprised at the response you get.”
Today, Cindy remains a staunch organ donation advocate. She volunteers with patients on dialysis to help them navigate the complex transplant system and she spearheaded the WHL Suits up with Don Cherry to Promote Organ Donation games.
Cindy happily says “If these games make one person donate – or even just sign their card and start a conversation, well, this means the world to me and my family. As dad says if it can happen to my family, it can happen to yours. So, let’s work together so everyone who needs a transplant, gets a transplant.”
Meet Tisean: The Warrior Princess
Tisean was born with a very rare condition which affected both her kidneys. Looking at her today you would never guess she’s had 23 surgeries – the majority of them kidney related. Her mom says “she is a really strong little girl. I call her my warrior princess because Tisean has shown so much strength and bravery throughout all the surgeries she has had since the age of four.”
It’s been a very long journey for Tisean, which is an understatement. At such a young age, Tisean needed to learn about kidney disease, adapt to special diets, take mandatory medications, and undergoing various treatment options. Fortunately, she hasn’t be alone throughout her kidney journey. Tisean has the love and support of her family, friends, Alberta’s medical system, and last year she was invited to Kidney Kids Camp.
At the time, Tisean & her family didn’t know Alberta/The Kidney Foundation had a camp for kids with kidney issues, but our little warrior princess was so excited to go and celebrated her 10th birthday at camp. While the family was nervous to see their child leave home for a week, she returned from camp with so much excitement, stories of adventure, new friendships, and an eagerness to go back in 2019. It was, after all, an opportunity for her to just be a kid.
When Tisean was asked to be an ambassador for the Kidney Foundation of Canada WHL Suits Up with Don Cherry To Promote Organ Donation game in Red Deer, she immediately said YES. It was her way to help bring awareness to kidney health and organ transplantation.
As her mom says “so far her journey with kidney disease has been calm. She does have a daily routine which requires the use of catheters, irrigation therapy, and medication for her bladder and kidneys, and maintaining her diet from sodium and potassium” but she is strong. And she will get through this.
Tina Lumbis’ Story
My story reflects a long, often difficult, but optimistic journey. I was diagnosed with Wegener’s disease at only 15 years old. I didn’t expect it. After all, I was a regular, healthy teenager and living with a chronic illness was the last thing on my mind.
I had to finish high school by correspondence because I often felt weak, and missed out on regular activities and experiences every teenage seeks. I knew I would eventually need dialysis, but ‘eventually’ happened only 3 short years later. At 18, my kidney function deteriorated to a point that dialysis was required – first peritoneal and then hemodialysis.
I consider myself fortunate because I had a great support system. My family helped me during dialysis, and having a close friend who understood and was also going through the same experience, made a big difference.
For those on the transplant list, waiting is difficult. In my case, I needed to wait until my Wegener’s was in remission before I was even eligible to receive a new kidney. Once I was eligible, I received “the call” on five different occasions, but in each case, the potential kidney wasn’t a perfect match or it went to someone else.
So when I was told I’d be receiving my kidney on July 30, 2017, I was excited, but uncertain. Was this time really “the time”? It was. And for this, I thank my anonymous hero who was willing to register to be an organ donor, and pass on those wishes to his/her family.
I’ll never know who my hero was, but we need more heroes to step forward so more people can be free from dialysis and head into the surgery room before they pass away. I’m happy I’m not another statistic, and I hope my story motivates others to register to become organ donors.
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.