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West Vancouver family urgently seeks kidney donor

Doctors say live organ transplant is the best option
Kidney donor needed web
Alexis MacKay-Dunn snuggles here newborn daughter Sloane. The West Vancouver mom is hopeful a kidney donor will come forward to help keep the family together.

A West Vancouver mother of two is hoping someone in the community will step forward and offer a kidney that may keep her family whole.

Alexis MacKay-Dunn grew up in Caulfeild and, after graduating from university, set up an interior design business. When she was pregnant with her first son in 2018, she was diagnosed with IgA Nephropathy, an auto-immune kidney disease without a known cause or cure.

 “During my first pregnancy, my kidneys performed really well – for both me and baby – so after numerous consultations with our doctors in early 2020, we were given a small window to try to expand our family before my disease progressed much further,” MacKay-Dunn wrote in a message to supporters. “Unfortunately, my second pregnancy was not at all like the first.”

MacKay-Dunn was experiencing severe headaches, high blood pressure and debilitating exhaustion - signs of struggling kidneys. In the interests of both mom and baby, they opted for an early delivery and her daughter Sloane was born on Dec. 16 at 32 weeks.

With a lot of support from two neonatal intensive care units, Sloane has been putting on weight and is now back home. But MacKay-Dunn's kidneys were not recovering, and she was admitted to St. Paul's Hospital just before Christmas.

Dialysis is a solution but only a temporary one, and it comes a heavy cost to quality of life. Her doctors have told her a transplant is the best possible treatment for her IgA Nephropathy.

“A new kidney would mean the world to me. A new kidney would essentially give me my life back and allow me to do all the things an otherwise (relatively) young and healthy mom does to support her growing family, giving my children the love and energy they need from their mom,” she wrote. “A new kidney would also relieve the stress of the potential that my family could eventually lose me if I don’t find a donor match.”

Waiting for a match from a deceased donor would take years, so the prescription was to go public and seek out as many potential donors as possible. Two weeks ago, they detailed their situation in a letter to friends and family. As word spread, the MacKay-Dunns’s story was retold in the Vancouver media. The response has been overwhelming, MacKay-Dunn’s husband Rob said.

“The feedback, the prayers, the positive vibes – just the thoughts that are all being sent to us, is kind of what we’re living off of day to day,” he said.

The family is urging anyone who may be willing to step up, or at least learn more about kidney donation, to contact St. Paul’s Hospital Living Kidney Donor Program.

Potential donors will be carefully screened. The wide majority won’t be a match for someone in need but there is no way of knowing without advanced testing.

Kidney donors can go on to live normal, healthy lives with just one kidney. It’s entirely up to the donor whether they wish to remain anonymous to their recipient. Even if you’re not a match for MacKay-Dunn, you might be for someone else.

“Beyond my own situation, I’d like to highlight the importance of living organ donation more broadly, and the opportunity to monumentally change someone’s life for the better,” she wrote.

MacKay-Dunn said it’s hard to put herself in the shoes of a would-be donor, but having met a few through her treatment, she has noticed something they have in common.

“They have felt very fulfilled for doing so. I think there's definitely a human connection there that is special,” she said.

The St. Paul’s kidney program can be reached at 604-806-9027 or donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca.