BY JOY STRUTHERS
Every day, an average of 14 people learn their kidneys have failed in Canada. For many, it is due to diabetes which is the leading cause of chronic kidney disease and kidney failure.
Greg Allt knew the day might come that his kidney would fail because of damage from diabetes but through diet, exercise and medication he stayed healthy for as long as he could.
“They thought I would be on dialysis in 2005 but I stuck to the regime rigorously so I was lucky,” said Allt.
Allt was on dialysis at home for just over a year. This treatment removed waste and water from his blood, which is a job his kidneys were no longer doing effectively. He had great caregivers and was able to work from home as well.
However, he became very weak.
“I had no energy, I slept most of the time,” he said.
One time he accidentally doubled a supplement he was supposed to take and ended up hospitalized.
“I was living in a twilight zone,” he said. “I couldn’t say things properly … I didn’t know what was going on.”
He was on dialysis for three days straight in an effort to clean his blood. His condition stabilized and he was able to go home again.
Doctors had a plan in place and were preparing a donor by that time, for when he needed surgery.
Years ago, his brother, Guelph councillor Phil Allt, said he would get checked out to be a donor.
“My other brother stepped up and said if Phil doesn’t work out, I’ll get checked. I had a number of people come forward to offer,” said Greg.
His brother was a really good match. |
“First of all they did psychological testing to determine whether I was under threat or blackmail or pressure … and also to determine I didn’t have a god or hero complex,” said Phil.
It is an important part of the process for doctors to figure out if the potential donor is prepared for the surgery. They don’t want anyone to do it for the wrong reasons or have any regrets.
Then came the more physical requirements. Luckily the brothers share type B blood, which is rare.
The surgery was performed Dec. 7, 2016 and for Greg it went perfectly.
“They told me he would instantly recover. The truth is he did. I, on the other hand, took weeks, because I was far more compromised,” said Phil.
Phil had a complication and was in surgery for longer than expected. He ended up with a collapsed lung. When he spiked a fever they began searching for a perforated bowel and blood clots. He isn’t very clear on everything that happened.
“That was probably the worst day of my life,” said Phil.
He describes the recovery as if he had been in a knife fight.
“For the first little while I couldn’t get out of the chair. I had to kind of push myself up with my elbows. Getting out of bed I had to roll over, put one foot against the wall and sort of prop myself up because I didn’t have any capacity to use my abdominal muscles at all,” he said.
It has been a hard winter for Phil because he had to limit his activities but slowly he has returned to good health. He has a number of dietary restrictions and is aware of his physical limitations.
He can still have up to seven alcoholic drinks a week, which he is fine with. He has to reduce his caffeine and cream intake but the one thing he said he wouldn’t do is switch from butter to margarine.
A big surprise for Phil was that he couldn’t have black licorice. It contains something that affects blood pressure.
“Beyond that, life is normal,” he said. “I can do every bit of physical activity I always did.”
Greg is confident this kidney will keep him going for a long time.
“It’s been a life changer,” he said.
He felt better immediately after the surgery and is returning to work soon.
It has been a long journey for him and, as he is still diabetic, he will always have dietary restrictions and some medical needs but the cost to him and the government will be greatly reduced.
“It costs about $70,000 a year to do home dialysis which is the cheapest form of dialysis,” he said. “That doesn’t include … doctors and blood work. In Canada the cost to get a kidney transplant is $38,000. Now, right there you can see the savings.”
Obviously people think about the human cost, and helping someone as the biggest incentive for donation, but there is also this saving of health-care dollars which is very important to the Allt brothers as well.
In Canada if you need medical help you will get it, although there may be a waiting period. If there is an emergency people get treatment right away.
“I’m praising the Canadian health-care system,” said Greg.
Both brothers urge people to become organ donors.
“All that I really want out of this is for people to sign their donor cards. Just sign them.
“There’s no excuses,” said Phil.
“They need to go to www.beadonor.ca. It is so important,” said Greg.
Being a living donor might not be for everyone, but becoming an organ donor takes two minutes online and in the event of a tragedy up to eight people’s lives could be saved.
“I’m not a hero,” said Phil. “People think I’m a hero. I’m not a hero at all … Life gives you choices. In this case I had one choice. That’s it.”