When Paulette Talerico, a longtime Golden resident, found out that her nephew Pierre Pelletier in Vancouver was in need of a kidney transplant, she immediately knew she had to help.
Pelletier was diagnosed with cystic kidneys, a painful condition in which clusters of cysts (noncancerous round sacs which contain fluid) develop on the kidneys, causing the organ to enlarge and lose function over time. The cysts vary in size but can grow to be very large.
When not treated properly, the condition can be life-threatening.
“The whole thing was just horrific for him, he was saying it’s so extremely painful, and if they burst, it’s just poison in the system,” explained Talerico.
“He was in bad, he was in dire straights, he absolutely needed a kidney.”
So in January of 2020, Talerico and Pelletier initiated the process to have her donate one of her kidneys.
By March, everything was approved, but when the COVID pandemic hit, proceedings ground to a halt. Things were further complicated when Pelletier‘s wife was diagnosed with cancer.
Upon completing her treatment, Talerico and Pelletier resumed the transplant process, and finally, in August of 2021, the transplant was completed.
“He’s doing fantastic now, there were a few hiccups for him, the kidneys were actually overworking and he couldn’t drink enough water to keep up, but he’s settled down now and doing great,” she said.
Now, Talerico wants to spread the message that organ transplants are a quick and easy way to save someone’s life - even if you live somewhere rural.
She said that the majority of the process was able to be done at home, with blood tests and other prep work taking place in Golden. The only part that wasn’t able to be completed locally was the actual transplant itself, as she had to travel to Vancouver, where Pelletier lives. However, usually, transplants can be done closer to Golden, in centres like Calgary, to minimize travel.
Overall, she says the transplant itself was easy and painless, saying she was back on her feet within days and able to carry out tasks such as shopping, needing only Tylenol to get her through.
She hopes her story will encourage others to become organ donors.
“Hopefully more people will now because I didn’t realize how many people are actually in need of a kidney, it’s just unbelievable.”
She explained that there’s also a paired program, which means that even if you are not a match to the person you are donating to, or don’t have someone in your life to donate to, you can still participate in organ donation.
“I just want people to know that it’s not hard and it’s very rewarding - you could save someone’s life,” said Talerico.
The Living Kidney Donor Program based in Vancouver can be reached at 604-806-9027 and is located on Burrard Street in Vancouver.