Jacqui gave a kidney to her big sister Laureen in 1985

“I was four years old when an ambulance took me to the hospital from my appointment with my pediatrician. I was in the final phase of kidney failure,” said Laureen Bureau. What followed was a long relationship with hospitals. That was in 1960, when she was living in Saint John, New Brunswick, with her parents and four sisters.

Throughout her childhood, she had to travel repeatedly from Saint John to Montreal for treatment at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t responding to any treatments due to severe homesickness, so they had to send me home,” explained Laureen (left).

During her adolescence, Laureen’s health stabilized, sparing her the inconvenient hospital stays. “At that point in my life, I graduated from high school, then CEGEP, and then I worked a little. I also returned to the Montreal Children’s Hospital to volunteer,” she said.

The day after her 26th birthday, the condition of Laureen’s kidneys suddenly deteriorated, which made it increasingly hard for her to study; she felt very weak and lost interest in eating. “Just when I was about to move to Montreal, my nephrologist started talking about dialysis and even transplantation,” she recalled.

In early 1984, her sisters got tested to find out if one of them could be a compatible donor. It turned out that her youngest sister, Jacqui, was a perfect match. Laureen received her sister’s kidney on August 8, 1985, at age 29. “My sister’s gift changed my life forever, and it helped us forge an unbreakable bond. I will be forever grateful to her,” said Laureen.

Sofia donated a kidney to her best friend Anthony

I never could have imagined being able to save the life of someone so close to me. I’ve known Anthony for over 10 years. We met at Dawson College and we’ve been best friends ever since. When I learned that Anthony’s kidneys had stopped working and that he had to undergo dialysis at home several times a day, it broke my heart.

I knew I couldn’t just sit there and twiddle my thumbs, watching him undergo all those difficult treatments. So I told Anthony and his parents that I wanted to give him one of my kidneys.

Although I didn’t know if my kidney was a match for him, I knew something had to be done. Over the next few months, I underwent a long list of tests, saw countless doctors, and finally received the amazing news: I was a 100% match for Anthony!

When we got the news, our eyes filled with tears of joy. The unknowns never worried me, because the doctors had prepared me well. I also knew I could count on the unconditional support of my family, my friends and most importantly, my best friend Anthony. I knew that as of May 12, 2011, he would have his health back and that he would have it for the rest of his life, and as I made that major decision, his health was the only thing I could think of. I am absolutely thrilled about what I’ve done, and seeing him enjoy life again is the best reward I could ever have hoped for.

Lyne Beaulieu gave one of her kidneys to Raphaëlle

On June 15, 2010, Lyne Beaulieu of Granby gave a kidney to six-year-old Raphaëlle Gosselin, changing her life forever.

Raphaëlle had been suffering from kidney failure from a very tender age. In November 2008, when she was four, doctors decided to remove both her kidneys because they’d stopped working. After the operation, she had to undergo dialysis twelve hours a day, every weekday for two years until she was old enough to receive a donor kidney.

It was Raphaëlle’s grandmother who made Lyne aware of the child’s situation. Touched by her story and by how young she was, she decided to donate a kidney to Raphaëlle. Lyne is a universal donor, so she knew she was compatible.

She had met Raphaëlle only a few months before deciding to give her a kidney. She contacted Sainte-Justine Hospital to tell them what she wanted to do, and then, under the supervision of Dr. Clermont, she underwent a series of compulsory tests in the first half of 2010. Lyne persevered and pushed the hospital to minimize the time between tests. Her goal was to get Raphaëlle her transplant as soon as possible to spare her the painful dialysis treatments. “I admire this family. They’re what kept me going,” said Lyne.

Lyne and Raphaëlle met only once more before the transplant. Lyne gave Raphaëlle a stuffed toy. “It’ll bring you good news,” Lyne told her.

The transplant took place on June 15, 2010, and was successful.

In the days that followed, Lyne received a call from Raphaëlle, who told her the good news. She had just finished drinking a glass of apple juice, a glass of orange juice and a glass of water, one after the other. Lyne knew that such simple things meant the world to the little girl and was overjoyed to see Raphaëlle leading a normal life like all the other girls her age.

However, Lyne keeps a low profile when it comes to Raphaëlle’s family. “I didn’t give her my kidney, I just gave her a kidney,” she said. “I’m just a link in the long chain of life.” She added that during this “incredible journey of solidarity,” she had “experienced great things.” She would also like to draw attention to the “outstanding skills of the doctors and the kindness of the nurses” throughout the transplant process.

Claire Tardif donated a kidney to her husband, Jean-Guy.

When donating a kidney means doing something for yourself

Doing myself some good meant deciding, without batting an eyelash, that I wanted to donate a kidney to my husband, who had suffered from kidney failure for six years.

Doing myself some good meant understanding that someone had given me a guardian angel, France Martineau, a specialized nurse from the Royal Victoria Hospital, who was with me throughout this incredible experience, and who, to this day, takes very good care of me.

Doing myself some good meant putting my trust in an amazing team of nurses and medical specialists who made this miracle of life a reality.

Doing myself some good meant gratefully receiving help from my employer and my co-worker, who gave me the flexibility I needed to undergo the seven months of medical tests that would eventually confirm that I could donate a kidney to my husband.

Doing myself some good meant accepting the wave of spontaneous generosity on the part of our neighbours Karen, Dan, Mario, Andrea and Josie who, upon hearing of what we were doing, all got together to whip up healthy meals and make sure I felt safe while my husband remained in hospital. And then there was Frank who, out of the kindness of his heart, mowed our lawn all summer and raked our leaves in fall.

Today, doing myself some good means looking at my husband, the man I gave my kidney to on June 16, 2011, and seeing that he radiates new-found energy. I can’t help but think about the wonderful opportunity I was given to present him with this gift, and about the long life together we now have ahead of us.

Go on, donate a kidney: it really does you a lot of good!

Claire Tardif