CARBERRY — A mother-daughter bond is stronger than ever after Shauna McKinnon donated a kidney to the eldest of her three children.
Karly McKinnon, a Grade 10 student at Carberry Collegiate, hopes to return home this month after weeks of recuperation following a kidney transplant on Nov. 21 at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre.
It was May 2012 when Karly was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease called p-ANCA positive vasculitis. Only a kidney transplant would solve her health issues.
Initially, the teen was on home dialysis to do the blood purifying normally done by healthy kidneys. The home dialysis was a daily 10-hour, all-night ordeal that involved a tube into her stomach, into which glucose was injected. Blood toxins diffused into the glucose, which was then disposed of.
At this stage, Karly’s kidneys were functioning at about eight per cent. She underwent chemotherapy in Winnipeg for six months to help the lungs, which shut down her immune system.
It was hoped she would reach 18-19 years of age to be strong enough for a kidney transplant.
Both Shauna and Karly’s father, Brian McAllister, were prepared to donate a kidney. After much discussion, it was decided that Shauna would be the donor as high blood pressure made Brian a greater risk.
"I was not worried at all until the day before my surgery to remove my right kidney," Shauna joked. Seriously, "I knew that it was something that had to be done."
Her three-hour laparoscopic surgery involved a small incision in the front of her lower abdomen through which her right kidney was removed.
"My kidney was cleaned and placed in a beer cooler on ice and taken next door where Karly was waiting for her new organ," Shauna said. "I did not have any stitches, but did have freezing and morphine to control my pain."
For Karly, the most critical part of the surgery was when her mother’s kidney artery was to be connected to her much smaller kidney artery.
Clotting was the greatest concern for the medical staff, and indeed, as Karly was being stitched up, the surgeons realized that a clot occurred and had to be repaired and the two arteries rejoined.
Karly was up walking the next day and had to drink four litres of water daily to keep the kidney well hydrated.
After two days, she had regained her appetite and was feeling better than ever. She was released from the Health Sciences Centre after one week and moved into a three-bedroom condo on Pembina Highway with her father.
Father and daughter have an 8 a.m. appointment daily at the hospital, where a series of tests are performed to make sure there are no signs of Karly’s body rejecting the new kidney. That involves a 35-minute drive to the hospital from their condo, which was rented to the family for a small fee while the owners are in Texas.
Karly really enjoys city life as she has her learner’s driving licence and is navigating her dad all over the place. They enjoy eating out and attending some entertaining ventures.
"We were blessed with five (four female and one male) surgeons who are like family to us," Shauna said. "In fact, Karly has decided that she would like to be a doctor because she was so impressed with the work of her medical workers."
Monthly anti-rejection medication to complement such a unique surgery is $2,500 — 80 per cent of which is covered by Brian’s Manitoba Hydro employer insurance.
A community fundraising social was held in November, and the family wants to express their sincere thanks for the support from family, friends, community members and service clubs.
"Initially we were somewhat stubborn and reluctant to accept community support, but the hall was packed to capacity and there were lots of raffles," Shauna said.
"Brian’s fellow Hydro workers worked one hour of overtime for free with the money used to purchase a big screen television for the raffle. His union also provided an iPad for the raffle. Many local businesses and community members also donated some great prizes."
What about the future for Shauna and Karly? Mom looks great and still has her usual humorous disposition. However, she does tire easily due to a loss of kidney function. She hopes to return to work this month.
Meanwhile, Karly — who does her school work each afternoon under Brian’s supervision — expects to return to regular classes at Carberry Collegiate in February. An honour student who works part-time at Falk Pharmacy, she will celebrate her 16th birthday in February.
"The school teachers and principal Kathy Bjarnason have been very helpful and most co-operative," Shauna said.
An account to help with the family’s expenses for Karly’s recovery has been set up at the Bank of Montreal in Carberry.
» Carberry News-Express