Agnes Werth always believed in organ donation and on June 21, 2017, she donated one of her kidneys in Vancouver.
“It’s something I always believed. I thought it was an opportunity to do it while I was still here,” said Agnes Werth, a local resident of the South Cariboo. “It was something I really wanted to accomplish in my life and I feel like it was an accomplishment.”
The 70-year-old donor has been on the organ donor list for as “long as there has been one,” she said. But one of the driving reasons for her to pull the trigger was type one diabetes. Kidney disease is often the result of long-term type one diabetes due to high blood sugar levels and high blood pressure causing damage to the organ.
According to Diabetes Canada, 50 percent of people with diabetes show symptoms of kidney damage which can ultimately end in the organ failing. At that point, dialysis or a kidney transplant would be required.
Two of her grandsons have been diagnosed with type one diabetes.
“As someone who’s retired, it was probably easier for me to do it than it is for someone younger,” said Werth. “Apparently, they really like people who are a little bit older because you’re past the age where you’re likely to have certain diseases.”
However, it was quite a rigorous process. Werth had to spend two days doing strenuous medical and psychological examinations. On the bright side, the BC transplant Society keeps track of Werth, making sure her health is in good standing, particularly the functioning of her lone kidney. The society will watch her for the rest of her life and requires her to notify her of address or physician changes.
Werth said she was willing and prepared to give all the time needed for the process and thought she would be in some pain in the aftermath but found it not that bad. She required no medication for pain and was out of the hospital within three days, even walking the day after the surgery. It did take her six months to fully recover though.
Given her age, there was some concern shared by her eldest daughter, an emergency room nurse, and her husband.
“They were supportive of me and of each other. It’s quite interesting, the reactions of people. A lot of people say why would you do that but I looked at the risks and felt my giving of a kidney was really worthwhile of making someone else’s life so much better,” she said.
After reviewing the risks of the procedure, Werth said nothing stood out to her or worried her. It also helped knowing four other people who have lived with one kidney for various lengths of time.
She also lives a healthy life, exercising several times a week.
Even though she is curious about who received her kidney, she has no interest seeking them out. Her donation was anonymous and through a chain.
A chain typically has seven or eight people, where family members of people who need a transplant or a person such as Werth who want to donate their kidney link up and match their kidneys with a person in need. For example, if Joe Average’s wife needs an organ and Jane Doe’s husband needs one but aren’t compatible, they can sign up for a chain with five other people. Within this chain, Jane Doe might be a compatible match for Mary Average and the latter would get the former’s kidney.
All Werth knows is that her kidney went to someone within the province.
“It’s not important to me. The only hope I have is that whoever it is is healthy,” she said. “When I’ve read about someone who received a donation, yes. I look at the date.”