British Columbia

Surrey family pleads for living kidney donor to help mother

A family in Surrey, B.C., is calling out to their community and beyond for anyone willing to commit one of the most selfless acts possible — donating an organ. Poonam Hamal, 52, is undergoing dialysis due to an autoimmune disease that is shutting down her kidneys.

Dialysis patient Poonam Hamal has rare blood type

Poonam Hamal, who is undergoing kidney dialysis, pictured with her three children. Her family has launched a campaign to find a living donor. (Submitted by Shaurab Hamal)

A family in Surrey, B.C., is calling out to their community and beyond for anyone willing to commit one of the most selfless acts possible — donating an organ.

Poonam Hamal, a 52-year-old mother of three, is undergoing dialysis due to an autoimmune disease that is shutting down her kidneys.

Her family is putting up posters around the streets of Surrey directing people to an online campaign in their bid to find someone with a compatible blood type who would be willing to donate one of their kidneys. 

Hamal has B+ blood, meaning the most suitable donors would have blood of types B+, B-, O+ or O-. No one in her family or social circles is a match. 

"I hope someone helps me," said Poonam. "My life will extend and then I'll continue to be a good person in the world."

During kidney dialysis, Poonam Hamal has to attach her body to a machine every night for nine hours. (Submitted by Shaurab Hamal)

In 2011, Hamal was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, which deteriorates the kidneys to the point where they can no longer support the body. in 2019 she began dialysis, where she has to hook her body to a machine every night for nine hours straight. 

She says dialysis is taking a toll on her body, from headaches to back pains to her limbs swelling. 

"It's very painful. I want to stay happy all the time. I tried, but most of the time I feel sad. That's very hard," said Hamal. 

"I'm always getting tired," she added, managing a bright smile amid her weariness.

"It's a bit soul crushing to see your mom be plugged into a machine every night and not be able to do anything," said Shaurab Hamal, her youngest son, who launched an online campaign called Kidney for Mum to help find a donor. 

The posters being put up around Surrey contain an AR code that leads to the website, which tells Hamal's story along with details about treatment and being a donor. It also contains contact details for anyone wanting to get in touch. 

He says he has since received many positive responses, from moral support on social media to calls from people offering to get tested. 

"We're very grateful for the amount of support and the amount of people that have tried to help my mom so far," Shaurab Hamal said.

Shaurab Hamal puts up posters at Surrey's Holland Park in hopes of finding someone in the community who is willing to be a living donor for his mother, Poonam. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The Provincial Health Services Authority says getting a match for B+ blood is difficult because a smaller percentage of the population has the type.

To add further challenges, Hamal produces antibodies that make her body less receptive to other people's blood. 

A kidney transplant from a living donor is the preferred treatment for Hamal's condition, the health authority added. 

"For patients waiting for a kidney, transplant outcomes are generally better with kidneys from a living donor than from a deceased donor," it said. 

B.C. Transplant encourages anyone with questions about becoming a living donor to contact the program directly.

Shaurab and Poonam Hamal. Shaurab hopes his online Kidney for Mum campaign will help find a living kidney donor. (Submitted by Shaurab Hamal)

'Ultimate gift of life'

Shaurab Hamal will soon fly out to London to begin work at a private equity firm, so he says he is treasuring the time he is spending with his mother.

He says the highlight of his day is walking with his mom through Holland Park in Surrey.

"My mom is a very positive person and when you see her in public, you don't really see that she has a life-threatening disease," he said.

He says he will continue the campaign after he leaves.

"My mom is the most loving and caring person in the world," he said. "It would mean a lot to her for somebody to give her the ultimate gift of life."

As for Poonam, she says simple phone calls from people checking in helps keep the family optimistic.

"My husband and children are helping me, and my family loves me," said Poonam. "When people call me, I feel very good."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ali Pitargue is an associate producer at CBC Vancouver. You can contact her at ali.pitargue@cbc.ca.

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