Ottawa

Financial support for organ donors lacking, Ottawa family finds

An Ottawa woman who plans to donate a kidney to her mother says more financial support is needed for living donors who don't have access to sick leave or other health benefits.

Kielli Kraft plans to donate a kidney to help save her mother's life

Wendy Kraft, left, spends almost nine hours a day hooked up to a dialysis machine in her bedroom. Her daughter, Kielli Kraft, right, plans to donate one of her kidneys to her mother to help save her life. (Robyn Miller/CBC News)

An Ottawa woman who plans on donating one of her kidneys to her mother says more people might consider the life-saving procedure if there was better financial support for living donors.

Kielli Kraft said for her, the decision to go under the knife was an easy one after her mother was diagnosed with Goodpasture Syndrome in 2016. 

The rare autoimmune disease attacks the kidneys and lungs, affecting about one in every two million people. It's left her mother on dialysis for about eight-and-a-half hours each day.

"It's nerve-racking, but I feel like it's just second nature to do something to help someone that you love," said Kraft, who stepped in after learning about the long wait list for organ donations.

Kraft, 35, works a retail job in a lighting showroom and said she doesn't have sick leave or benefits.

Partial coverage not enough

She plans to apply for medical employment insurance, but said the partial coverage won't be enough to cover prescription costs and other expenses and she may have to be off work for up to three months. 

The length of recovery time varies from donor to donor depending on their medical history.

"Basically [I] was left to decide, take an unpaid leave of absence to save my mom, or what — work?" Kraft said.

Wendy Kraft says she is incredibly grateful to her daughter, who is giving up a kidney to help save her life. (Robyn Miller/CBC News)

"The decision was easy in that sense, but financially, clearly [it's] going to be difficult."

At her home in Barrhaven, Kielli's mother, Wendy Kraft, said she's incredibly grateful for her daughters Kielli and Jillian, who both stepped in to help the moment she became ill.

"Anything can happen in surgery, and for her to be giving up her kidney for me is just amazing," said Kraft, who agrees more support is needed for living donors.

'For her to be giving up her kidney for me is just amazing'

CBC News Ottawa

3 years ago
1:30
Kielli Kraft plans to donate a kidney to her mother Wendy Kraft because of the expected years-long wait for an organ from a deceased donor. Wendy Kraft was diagnosed with an extremely rare disorder called Goodpasture Syndrome in 2016. 1:30

Reimbursement program limited

In 2007 the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care established a fund to help reduce the financial stress incurred by living organ donation through the program for reimbursing expenses of living organ donors (PRELOD).

It's administered by Trillium Gift of Life Network and reimburses living organ donors for some out-of-pocket expenses and loss of income after surgery.

But the program only provides a loss of income subsidy if all other sources of income have been "utilized and exhausted," according to the Trillium Gift of Life Network website.

Kielli Kraft said she can't apply until she finds out what's happening with her employment insurance, even though she knows it won't be enough.

Friends have now stepped in to help relieve some of the financial burden through an online fundraiser.

"It's beyond a blessing to see that," Kraft said through tears. "Now, I can go into this surgery feeling that weight off of my chest."

The surgery is scheduled for Jan. 24, but Kielli Kraft said it could happen sooner if there is a cancellation.

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