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Sask. resident hoping for kidney transplant says organ donation program resumption is bittersweet

For 25-year-old Eden Janzen, the resumption of Saskatchewan’s organ donation program is bittersweet, as the Regina woman says her hope of getting a kidney transplant is becoming more distant.

Janzen was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in 2016 and has been on dialysis for the past four years. 

She started doing the medical work-up for a transplant in late 2019, but faced disruptions due to physical ailments and delays caused by the pandemic.

“It’s difficult and it’s a long process and it’s a stressful process and it’s really debilitating on you,” Janzen said.

The tests that Janzen had done were only valid for six months to a year, so now she has to start over. They include ultrasounds, X-rays, a bone density scan and blood work. 

Janzen also has a pending parathyroid surgery, so she says it will take all of 2022, and perhaps the year after that, to complete everything needed to get on the transplant list.

“It’s just very hard to feel overjoyed with [the resumption] because that just means my journey starts over,” she said.

“There is a lot of hope that I’ve lost because we are at a standstill. We weren’t moving any further during the suspension, and now it’s going to take a while for us to keep moving further.”

Eden Janzen goes on dialysis four times a week. (Submitted by Eden Janzen)

Janzen said she was distraught when Saskatchewan’s organ donation program was halted in September as a way for the province to deal with its COVID surge. 

“I was baffled. I couldn’t wrap my head around it,” she said.

“I knew there’d be delays, but a full on suspension, I don’t think they knew what they did.”

35 missed opportunities for potential organ donations

Over the years, more than a dozen dialysis patients Janzen knew have died. She said she frequently sees her friends in obituaries. 

“You’ll see someone and then they’ll look worse and more sick and then you don’t see them,” she said.

“Like I always say, nine times out of 10, they’ll be in the obituaries.… You see that their wish was for donations to be made to the kidney foundation and it’s like, I just saw them.”

There were 51 people in the province on the waitlist for a kidney transplant as of late October, according to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).

In the two months that the organ donation program was halted, there were about 35 missed opportunities for consults to the organ donation program.

Doug Dahl, spokesman for the SHA, noted that those missed opportunities may not always have led to a donation, “however we had lost the ability to explore this option due to deployment of donation and transplantation staff.”

All organ donation staff have now been returned to their home unit, but staffing vacancies in Saskatoon are impacting full resumption there.

Other surgical programs, including elective surgeries, endoscopy, ambulatory care and cardiosciences, are ramping up across the province.

As of Nov. 26, 316 of the 396 health-care services that slowed on Sept. 1, have now been fully or partially resumed. 

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