Edmonton

Edmonton's 50th anniversary of kidney transplants spurs call for donors

This spring, Freda Ainley will celebrate the 45th anniversary of her transplant, making hers one of the longest-surviving donor kidneys in the world.

Surgeon says 170 patients are approved and waiting for kidney transplants

An unidentified patient receives dialysis in Edmonton, circa 1962. (Alberta Health Services)

Freda Ainley had been on dialysis for two years when she got a call in April 1972 that a kidney was available.

This spring she will celebrate the 45th anniversary of her transplant, making hers one of the longest-surviving donor kidneys in the world.

"These aren't things that come by very easily, especially this good a match," said Ainley, who was at the University of Alberta Hospital on Thursday to help Alberta Health Services celebrate 50 years of kidney transplantation in Edmonton.
In April, Freda Ainley will celebrate the 45th anniversary of her transplant, making hers one of the longest-surviving donor kidneys in the world. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

Since the first organ transplant at the hospital on Jan. 15, 1967, more than 2,800 kidney transplants have been performed there.​

The anniversary was also an opportunity to put out the call for more people to register as organ and tissue donors.

For Ainley, that call is personal. The rare genetic condition that left her in need of a transplant was inherited by her daughter.

Her daughter had her transplant in 1994, but her body rejected the kidney last summer. Now she's on dialysis waiting for another transplant.

Waiting list for transplants

In Edmonton, 170 patients have been approved and are waiting for kidney transplants, said Dr. Ron Moore, surgical director of the renal transplant program.

"These patients wait up to five years, depending on their blood type, for a suitable donor," he said. "To meet the challenge of the organ shortage, we have expanded the types and age of the kidneys we use for transplant, and are exploring ways to recondition donated organs," he said.

Please think seriously about giving life.- Freda Ainley

Last year, the UAH renal transplant program performed 96 kidney transplants, 31 of them from living donors.

Today, 95 per cent of patients in the renal transplant program survive the first five years, said Moore.

"Please think seriously about giving life," Ainley said, making a pitch for people to register to become donors. "I'd like to stand on top of the legislative buildings and yell it out."

Patients who have had kidney transplants enjoy improved quality of life, live longer and save the health-care system money, said Moore.

"It's about $80,000 a year to keep that person alive on hemodialysis," he said.
Early renal unit in Edmonton, circa 1968. (Alberta Health Services)

now