An Ottawa firefighter has spent the last six-plus years in fear of losing his life.

Not from injuries suffered in an explosive blaze or work-related mishap, but in a painful roller coaster ride waiting for a new kidney.

Craig Dunbar, 41, will enter hospital Wednesday as he is set to undergo his second kidney transplant on Thursday.

Dunbar, whose body rejected a new kidney from an earlier transplant, has spent 40 hours a week on kidney dialysis. Over time, his body has weakened, so he used social media to reach out for possible donors.

Even after his family started a campaign with his own website, plus accounts Facebook and Twitter, Dunbar's hopes had dwindled.

“I’m potentially making end-of-life plans,” Dunbar said, recalling his thought process mere months ago, “And then I find out that, not only do we find a potential match, but it’s somebody I know.”

Boss's wife steps forward

That somebody was Ann Gervais of Napanee, Ont., who is married to Dunbar’s supervisor. Gervais heard about Dunbar’s campaign — not through social media — but on TV news.

Craig Dunbar, kidney transplant recipient

Craig Dunbar, 41, is set to undergo a second kidney transplant. He had planned for the end of his life before this latest donor came along. (

Gervais remembered Craig saying he wouldn’t live unless someone stepped up to the plate, so she felt an overwhelming urge to do just that.

Now Gervais faces a four-hour operation to remove her kidney, followed by four days in hospital.

“I’m not at all nervous, it’s the right thing to do,” she said.

Dunbar, a native of the west Ottawa suburb of Carp, is relieved, excited and very appreciative Gervais’s kidney is a match.

“I can never put into words how much I appreciate what Ann is doing and, you know, I'm going to make sure I look after this kidney,” Dunbar said.

As of Tuesday, 1,046 people were waiting for a kidney transplant across Ontario, according to Ontario’s Trillium Gift of Life Network.

That is twice the number of people waiting for other types of organ transplants combined.

People waiting for an organ transplant in Ontario
Heart 61
Heart lung 2
Kidney 1,046
Kidney pancreas 53
Liver  248
Lung 87
Pancreas (whole) 19
Small bowel 1
Other 8
Courtesy: Trillium Gift of Life Network (As of Jan. 14, 2014)

Take our poll!