How one man’s kidney transplant is continuing to save lives

“I plan on giving for the rest of my days.”

As a young adult, Chris Blender was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger disease. This autoimmune-related kidney disorder causes inflammation that, over time, can make it difficult for the kidneys to filter waste from the blood.

Chris with his family.

For many years, Chris found himself navigating the health care system while dealing with these issues. He received dialysis at Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre and was very impressed by the care and compassion shown to him by staff members there: “I can’t say enough great things about the staff at Sheldon Chumir who helped me through this phase. However, dialysis presents many challenges and hurdles. Your life changes considerably, and it impacts the lives of those around you.”

Finally, at the age of 49, Chris required a kidney transplant. He had been going into kidney failure for about a year, meaning that his kidneys had lost their ability to filter waste from his body. His only option was a life-saving kidney transplant, which happened in 2019 at Foothills Medical Centre, and thankfully was very successful.

Chris’ sister, Cate, donated the kidney that saved her brother’s life. The transplant was complicated by the fact that Chris has a very rare blood type, but Chris and his two sisters had known for years that he would eventually require a transplant and were ready to tackle that head-on:

“Words don’t describe how lucky I am to have both my sisters in my life. Cate had looked into donating years before as she had the same blood type as me and made the decision that when the time came, she would donate. She was there for me. She is the hero in this story.”

While he is in good health now, Chris continues to meet with his nephrologist (kidney specialist) regularly.

“I am constantly amazed at the level of care and professionalism, along with the skill and dedication of all the staff involved in my care throughout my health journey. I really wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for those people.”

Chris has a young family, his two children were nine and 13 at the time of his transplant, and although they may not have fully grasped the gravity of the situation, Chris’ wife, a registered nurse, fully understood and was incredibly supportive throughout his entire journey. Now, post-transplant, Chris feels 10 years younger, is able to fully participate in life, and is busy making new memories with his family.

To thank all the health care workers who have helped him, Chris set up a monthly donation to Calgary Health Foundation, and has been donating consistently since 2020, the year after his kidney transplant. For Chris, it is something he can do to help others in the same situation:

“Words can’t describe when you’ve gone through something like that and you’ve come out on the other end. I’d taken for granted how lucky we are to have access to the quality of staff, facilities, and care that really make these miracles happen.”

Chris urges others to consider giving as well, recognizing the importance of strong local health supports:

“Once you’ve had access to the services provided, you realize how critical they are. I plan on giving for the rest of my days because it’s important to me that others can receive the same level of care that I received.”

Thank you to people like Chris, who have committed to giving monthly in support of the breakthroughs in care, wellness, and research that we all need.

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