Local man raises awareness for kidney donation

Darren Sbitney is receiving the gift of life April 13 at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver from his nephew Matthew Blayney.

What can you say to the guy who’s saving your life?

There are no words to describe what it means, says a Fruitvale man undergoing a kidney transplant in less than three weeks.

Darren Sbitney is receiving the gift of life April 13 at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. His nephew, 26-year-old Matthew Blayney, is donating a kidney to Sbitney, who was diagnosed with renal disease at the age of 15.

After a lifetime of managing his condition through strict diet and medications, Sbitney went into kidney function failure in March 2013.  Since then, he has required life-saving dialysis four times a week while awaiting a matching donor and surgery date.

The last few years of being unwell has been a challenge for the now 40 year old. Through it all he’s been a devoted father to Halle,14, and six-year-old Jovi alongside life-long partner Derrilyn, all while maintaining his job at Teck (until the last two months) on top of 16-plus hours of treatment each week in the renal unit at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital.

“The last few years I’ve been feeling pretty lousy, with no energy and fatigue,” he explained, adding that he cannot wait to get back to work. “I don’t really remember what it feels like to feel good.

“But, I have had so many people supporting me through this – all my family, and even my work has been helping me through.”

Sbitney will remain in St. Paul’s for up to one week post-surgery. However, he says the effects of a functioning kidney will be quickly apparent.

“They tell me as soon as I wake up I will feel a difference,” he added. “That is the one thing they said will shock me, is how good I will feel right after.”

As the days near for Sbitney’s life-saving surgery he has two messages to share with the community.

“I really want to say how important it is for people to sign up and be a donor,” he explained, mentioning the new registration system is not linked to the BC Driver Licence. “Becoming a donor changes lives, but you do have to go out and actually register now.”

Secondly, Sbitney shares the message that kidney disease is stealthy, so keeping health checks current can be key to diagnosing the disease in its early stages.

“It’s important to get checked out because this is a silent disease,” he said. “You may not know you have it until you get sick, and then it can be too late.”

Sbitney’s words parallel Trail council’s proclamation for BC Transplant, which recognizes April as National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness month in the city.

The organization has a mandate to increase organ donation and reduce wait times for patients in need of a life-saving transplant.

The length of time a person waits for an organ transplant in B.C. varies from a few months to years, depending on blood type, size, tissue matching and matching organ, says Megan Williams from BC Transplant.

A 2015 public opinion survey showed that 95 per cent of British Columbians support organ donation; yet only 20 per cent have registered their decision.

The reasons for the disparity vary, but death and organ donation is not something people like to think about, explained Williams.

“It’s times when it touches your life in some way that you think about it – death of a loved one or someone is in need of a transplant.”

To ensure you or a family member is registered for tissue/organ transplant, visit the BC Transplant website and click on the “Be a Donor” link.

As of January 2015, 2434 people in Trail have registered their decision as organ donors.

After Sbitney’s surgery, he is required to stay in Vancouver for up to six months as the medical team monitors his recovery.

The monthly cost to remain in the city near the hospital is high, so Saturday Sbitney’s family is hosting a fundraiser garage and bake sale, plus silent auction in the Fruitvale Memorial Hall from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.

They are looking for donations toward the fundraiser (garage sale, auction items and baking) and monetary donations will also be accepted.

For more information on Sbitney’s journey, visit darrenskidney.weebly.com or gofundme.com/o85f7k. To donate for the fundraiser, contact Christine Bartsoff at 367.9717.