In the late 1980s, Ed Lofeudo received a transplanted kidney, and it has made all the difference in how he’s able to live today.
The issue actually dates back decades earlier. When the White Rock senior was 18 years old, he had a case of strep throat that, due to lack of treatment, resulted a decade later in a kidney infection.
“When you get a kidney infection, there really is no cure for it, it just sort of progresses on,” he said, noting an infection often results in kidney failure.
“When I was first diagnosed with kidney failure, (I was) in Winnipeg… I went to a doctor (who said) ‘I would put your life in order, because by the time you’re in your early 30s, you probably won’t be here.’”
However, peritoneal dialysis – the treatment for kidney failure at the time – was fairly new, having only entered into widespread use about a decade earlier.
Dialysis is the process of flushing out waste and excess fluids from your blood, most commonly done as a result of lost kidney function.
When Lofeudo, now 70, found out about the treatment, he went to Vancouver General Hospital and went on dialysis for the next seven years.
Living in Langley at that time, Lofeudo had to travel to VGH for three overnight sessions a week. It caused him some problems in his personal life, he noted, as he couldn’t continue his job as a salesperson.
“When I was first sick and I started having problems, we had just built a brand new house in Langley. I went bankrupt, my business went broke. I got a call in the middle of the day – the tow trucks were here to tow our cars away.”
Though he did have the option to do dialysis at home, Lofeudo decided against it, so that his kids wouldn’t have to see firsthand what their father was going through.
“It was easier to have it as a part that the kids didn’t visualize. I mean, they knew I was going through dialysis, but they didn’t know what it was like,” he said. “When I was there, I was sort of normal… when I wasn’t, I was just going away to get better.”
Dialysis lowers a patient’s hemoglobin. This left Lofeudo feeling exhausted. It also pulled the calcium out of his body, which left him with weak bones.
Lofeudo recalled, as if it had just happened, the night that he was offered a transplant.
“I got a call on April 1,” he said, adding that he had just come home from dialysis. “It was about 12:30-1 o’clock in the morning and my oldest daughter and my wife and I were sitting around the kitchen table.”
The voice on the other end of the phone said, “This is the Transplant Society. We have a kidney. Do you want it?”
“Of course, what do we have to do?” he replied.
Following surgery – after the transplanted kidney started to function – Lofeudo felt a giant weight being lifted off his shoulder.
“It was amazing. You don’t have to focus your life on being on (dialysis)… The restrictions are gone on your travel, your movement, on just the way you view everything.”
Donated kidneys don’t last forever – averaging about 12 to 15 years, depending on circumstances. Lofeudo received his 30 years ago. His kidney came from a woman who had died in a car accident.
If given the chance to say something to her, Lofeudo said he would keep it brief.
“I would be extremely grateful, I mean grateful is an understatement,” he said.
Lofeudo noted that a lot of things in his life wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the transplant – such as being able to see his grandchildren.
“We try to live our life so that you make memories, and make everyday count.”
Lofeudo said he is sharing his story in hope that it will raise awareness to help those waiting for a transplant.
“I hope that more people sign up for (organ donation). It makes such a difference… it really is a new start,” he said.
“I mean there’s no other way of saying it. Unless you’ve experienced it, it’s difficult to convey how life changing it is.”
To get more information, and to register as a donor, go to www.transplant.bc.ca