50th anniversary of 1st kidney transplant in Sask.

Wednesday marks 50 years since the first kidney transplant was performed in Saskatchewan.
Former Regina Pats star Kyle Deck, who is on dialysis, took part in a donor awareness event in Saskatoon Tuesday. Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of the first kidney transplant in Saskatchewan. (Kathy Fitzpatrick/CBC)

Wednesday marks 50 years since the first kidney transplant was performed in Saskatchewan.

Since then, more than 800 people have had the surgery.

Today in Saskatchewan, 89 patients who are candidates for the surgery are waiting for suitable donors.

Among them is former hockey player Kyle Deck, who was a star with the Regina Pats.

He has been on dialysis for a year, a procedure that he is able to do at home. Each session takes about an hour to do and he does it four times per day.

At a ceremony in Saskatoon on Tuesday, Deck said he spends a lot of time thinking about the transplant.

"It's tough and it's scary," He said. "I hope, I pray.  And I'm thankful for the people who have donated, and the donators coming forward."

Deck said it means the world to him that people have added their names to a registry of donors. He says he is anxiously looking forward to a return to good health, in order to do more things with his young family.

Also at the event Tuesday was Dr. Richard Baltzan who recalled the early days of kidney transplants in Saskatchewan. He joined the surgical team just a few months after the first transplant was done.

Baltzan said his brother Marc, who spearheaded the first one, did so as a life-saving measure.

"We had a sick patient — an 18 year old girl who was perfectly well until four weeks when her kidneys packed in and there was no alternative," Baltzan said. "She was either die or receive a transplant."

As it turned out, the recipient of the first transplant in Saskatchewan was also, Baltzan believes, the first patient to go through an almost immediate rejection of the new organ.

"The kidney worked excellently for the first 12 hours and then it rejected and this was the first hyper-acute rejection I think ever recorded — certainly in North America — and probably the world," Baltzan said. He added the team did a second transplant for the patient, which was successful.

Baltzan said when the team was first created, the procedure was so new they contacted experts in Boston who guided them through how the surgery should be done.


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