As It Happens

Syrian refugee plans to donate kidney to sister upon arrival in Canada

"I can't wait until she comes" says Janet Machtoub. Her sister, Laila, is expected to arrive in Edmonton by the end of the month.
Janet Machtoub (left) was delighted to find out her sister was a match for the kidney transplant: "It was a surprise for us." (Janet Machtoub)

A Syrian refugee who will be arriving in Canada soon is not only saving her own life. She could also be saving the life of her sister.

Janet Machtoub lives in Edmonton. She has been waiting for a kidney donor for more than 10 years. Her chronic health problems require she gets dialysis treatment every night.  

Her sister, Laila Maaen, is a match, and willing to donate. She's expected to arrive in Canada "any day now." Machtoub tells As It Happens guest host Helen Mann, "I'm so happy, she's coming here to Canada to be safe with her kids, and she's coming to do something nice, giving me her kidney." 

Chronic health problems have left Janet Machtoub struggling for years: "I've been suffering for, like, 15 years now, on dialysis." (Janet Machtoub)

Maaen was living just outside Damascus when the war broke out. Her house caught fire after a bombing, and she was scared her sons would be recruited to fight for the Syrian Army. She fled to Lebanon in 2013, where she and her children have been living ever since. At first, they lived in a tent. Now, the family of five lives in one room. 

Machtoub has not been able to find a kidney donor for nearly 15 years. Her doctor told her that the kidney transplant had to come from a family member, but her other siblings were not in good enough health. This past summer, she travelled to Lebanon to see her sister: "We did all the tests, and we're the perfect match." 

We did all the tests, and we're the perfect match- Janet Machtoub

From there, things moved quickly. Machtoub, with the help of The Mennonite Central Committee in Alberta, submitted an application in October to bring Maaen over as a refugee. Machtoub says although her sister is a refugee, first and foremost, she believes that the application moved more quickly "because she's doing something good, giving the kidney."

There will still have to be many medical tests done once Maeen lands in Edmonton, but Machtoub is hopeful that the transplant will be able to take place two months after she arrives. The date of her arrival is still uncertain.

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