Nova Scotia

'Miracle from heaven': Dad elated that son has finally found kidney match

A Cape Breton father "cried his eyes out" when his son called from a Vancouver hospital bed to tell his dad he was getting a much-needed kidney transplant. 

Stephen Gillis's Vancouver peewee hockey team made viral video that helped attract a donor

Stephen Gillis has been coaching hockey for about three years. He hopes a new kidney will allow him to continue to do so. (Stephen Gillis)

A Cape Breton father "cried his eyes out" when his son called from a Vancouver hospital bed to tell his dad he was finally getting a kidney transplant. 

Stephen Gillis, 38, was diagnosed a year ago with a rare form of kidney disease after years of living with Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel ailment.

He was put on the list for a transplant, but told it could be years before a suitable match was found.

The Vancouver peewee hockey team he coaches put together a video, appealing for a donor.

Stephen Gillis Sr. of Glace Bay called news of a kidney donor for his son, a 'miracle from heaven.' (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

The video went viral. Last week, an old friend of Gillis's came forward to say he'd done the testing and is a match.

Gillis was in the hospital, where he had undergone colon surgery.

He called his father in his native Cape Breton to deliver the good news. Gillis grew up in Glace Bay, N.S., and moved to Vancouver after high school.

"My heart is just filled with joy for him," said the father, Stephen Wayne Gillis. "The gentleman that is giving his kidney to my son, I really appreciate it, and I think it's a miracle from heaven."

Meanwhile, the younger Stephen Gillis shared the good news, and his reaction to it, via Twitter.

Gillis developed Crohn's disease when he was 25.  Last year, he began suffering severe hand and muscle cramps.

Doctors diagnosed him with Berger's disease (IgA nephropathy) and told him he would need a kidney transplant.

In March, he was admitted to hospital for a couple of weeks, and Gillis's father said the family "almost lost" him.

"It felt rotten. There was nothing I could do."

Now the family is looking to the future.

Stephen Gillis enrolled his peewee team in the Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup to teach them to contribute to their communities. (Stephen Gillis)

Gillis's father said he's grateful to the donor and to all the people who offered their support to help his son find a kidney.

"He loves Vancouver, he loves his job, he loves his kids that he coaches in hockey," he said, adding his son is also now helping raise awareness with the Kidney Foundation. 

"This is why people rally around him. Because he's a giver, not a taker."

With files from the CBC's Gary Mansfield