Off the Line: Challenges make me feel alive

I’m a fixer; the kind of person who loves to be handed a challenge. Challenges, especially the most difficult, send my blood rushing.

 

Karen Haviland

 

I’m a fixer; the kind of person who loves to be handed a challenge. Challenges, especially the most difficult, send my blood rushing. Challenges make me feel alive.

My father, I suppose, was the influence for me in that respect. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do if he just set his mind to it. I saw it again and again in my life; the first being when I would watch my father heading out the door, resume in hand, on a cold Winnipeg day without a coat, looking for work.

“Me? Cold?” he would respond with a chuckle when someone would question his lack of anything more substantial than a sweater on those bitter, frost-bitten mornings. What most people likely didn’t know was that he couldn’t afford a jacket. Not when he had five growing children to clothe. So, instead of a warm jacket, he would slip on the facade of a tough, I-can-withstand-anything-even-the-cold man.

What a lot of people also didn’t know was that his perfectly buffed but well-worn shoes were also hiding a secret. They were so worn that there were holes in the soles. To cover those holes my father would slip in bits of cardboard which did little in the way of keeping out water, mud or snow. But, dad had children to raise and a job waiting to be found. He never, despite dire circumstances, presented the picture of a conquered man and I fiercely loved and respected him for that.

He never once donned the face of defeat no matter how dire the circumstances. If you wanted a problem solved, just ask my dad. Everyone who knew him knew Herb would find a solution. That’s just the kind of guy he was — the kind who never, not for one second, considered defeat.

For that trait I can thank my father. That determination (some call it stubbornness) has resulted in some wonderful moments of feeling the rich flush of success after accomplishing things which many said couldn’t be done. It has enriched my life and opened doors where some would say there were no doors.

Yes sir. I showed them alright. To me there was no such thing as no. All I had to do was work hard on a solution and never, ever, under any circumstances, give up.

I’m thankful for that trait. Today, more now than ever, that trait could literally mean the difference between life and death for me.

As I am sure most of you have gathered by now I have kidney disease. No diet or magical cure is going to come my way. My kidney function is at less than 10 per cent. The best I can hope for now is a kidney transplant. I can’t believe I just wrote that. The reality of it is right here on my screen in black and white and I find it shocking. This is no dream. This is not a challenge with a blue ribbon waiting for me at the finish line.

The only race I am in now is one to find a kidney before this cruel, wicked disease claims my life. The prize? My life. That’s it. The rules are clear. The lines have been drawn and now I must pull out every vestige of strength and commitment and fight for my life.

I’m not fighting for glory or bragging rights. My prize is literally my life.

My husband and I just returned from Vancouver where we met with the transplant team at St. Paul’s Hospital. My disease, the treatment and other such details were explained to us in every aspect.

I have AB blood, which, the specialist explained, means that I can accept a donation from any blood type. Should I have a live donor ready to donate and cleared by the team, I could have a transplant in as few as three or four months. I can only imagine how it would feel to have this death sentence commuted.

Should I have to wait for a cadaver donor, however, my wait could be excruciatingly long. The reality is I could even die while waiting for a kidney.

I am relieved that the transplant team consults closely with any potential donor. In the end, the team wants the best, not just for me, the recipient, but more so for the live donor. Because a person only needs one healthy kidney to live he or she can donate a kidney and yet still live a long and healthy life.

My prayer every night now is that someone will step forward and offer me this life-giving gift. Dialysis, which I am currently undergoing, is not for the faint of heart. Thank goodness I am tough and have a loving husband standing beside me. Unfortunately I am not tough enough to stave off this life-sucking disease forever. It wants me and unless I receive a transplant, it will ultimately take me.

If you know someone with kidney disease or want to know more about kidney donation, you can contact me (through this newspaper) or the transplant team at St. Paul’s Hospital. They have a plethora of information they will send to you. Call the Kidney Living Donor Program at (toll free) 877-922-9822.

To follow my journey on Facebook go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/havikats/

Thank you from the bottom of my heart (or my kidneys haha) for reading this column to the end.