In 2006, grade three teacher Barbara Parker met Shirley Kendrick, the newly-hired principal, and was fond of her immediately. Shirley was good-natured and efficient, a welcome addition to the school Barbara had worked at for years.
While you would never have known from her professionalism and work ethic, Shirley was receiving kidney dialysis treatments three times per week, and word began to spread about her serious health issues. Shirley was suffering from end-stage kidney disease and needed a transplant.
Barbara heard the news and felt compelled to help.
“I figured her parents were worried sick about her, dialysis must be a huge restriction in her life, and feeling unwell a lot of the time had to be awful” says Barbara, but mostly she worried that Shirley was afraid.
“The thought that Shirley might be afraid bothered me on a gut level, and once I’m affected to that degree there’s no way I can shake it off or be talked out of it. So within an hour I was on the computer checking out kidney transplants.”
After doing her research, Barbara felt that the benefits of becoming a living donor far outweighed any risks, and made her decision; she was going to help Shirley by donating one of her kidneys.
The procedure took place at Toronto General Hospital (TGH) in February 2009, and Barbara has no regrets. After an unpleasant few days she was feeling better, reminding herself to take it easy for the next six weeks.
“Of course there are some risks and discomfort involved, but it’s so small in the grand scheme of things and totally worth it. It gave me deep happiness that I can’t express to anyone, not even to Shirley.”
Shirley is deeply grateful for Barbara’s generous gift.
“My life will always be better because of the gift she gave so selflessly” says Shirley, “Barbara is a truly special human being.”
To thank her for donating the gift of life, Shirley and her family purchased a permanent plaque on the Commemorative Giving Wall at TGH in honour of Barbara. The commemorative giving walls allow donors to display a customized and personalized plaque within Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals.
While glad to be appreciated and pleased that her gesture will be remembered on the wall at TGH, Barbara wants others to know that becoming a living donor also changed her life for the better.
“People can’t tell from [the plaque] that being a donor has enriched my own life very much. So maybe I’ll look into having another plaque made and hung next to hers. This one will read, ‘No worries Shirley, Barbara says she’d do it all again in a heartbeat.’”
More than 1,600 living kidney donor transplants have been performed at UHN since 1969, and all donors have returned to their regular lifestyle with no restrictions. Click here to learn more about the Living Donor Program.