Transplant patient and donor reunited

Paul Rosario (left) and Scott Dudley, mayor of Oak Harbour in Washington State, at Stanley Park on Friday. - Contributed
Paul Rosario (left) and Scott Dudley, mayor of Oak Harbour in Washington State, at Stanley Park on Friday.
— image credit: Contributed

At a one-year reunion to mark his life-changing kidney transplant, Phil Rosario announced he and his wife Keesha will  begin work for people who suffer from the same disease.

At the top of their list will be lobbying for a national organ donor registry, because presently matching of donors with those needing transplants is done only on a provincial basis. Last year, doctors told Phil he could be in for a nine-year wait to get a new kidney.

Keesha said a suitable donor could be available in another province, and health officials here wouldn’t know it.

“For anyone who needs an organ, that’s ridiculous.”

Phil’s transplant got a lot of media attention last year because a complete stranger – a Washington State mayor – came forward as a donor, after a chance meeting.

Big hearted Scott Dudley, the mayor of Oak Harbour, had vacation plans interrupted last spring. With time on his hands, the dedicated Rotarian decided to drop in on the meetings of some neighbouring clubs. That took him to Meadow Gardens Golf Course for the meeting of the Rotary Club of Haney.

While there, he heard club president elect Keesha talk about her husband’s health trials. He had polycystic kidney disease. Down to 16 per cent kidney function, he needed dialysis to remove toxins from his blood, until an organ donor could be found. He was always exhausted, never far from the couch.

“He [Dudley] came up to me afterward, and said, ‘How can we make this happen,’” she remembers.

The mayor had family members who suffered from PKD, knew how serious the genetic disorder is, and simply wanted to help.

Not only was there a will, there was a way.

The two men were a perfect match for tissue type and blood type – as if they were brothers.

Phil’s 39th birthday was last Wednesday, and the anniversary of his transplant was Thursday. On Friday, he had a reunion with Dudley, with a lot to celebrate.

Dudley’s kidney has restored Phil's zest for life, and the mayor remains in good health with one kidney.

“I feel blessed and awesome,” said Phill on Friday. “I still have my sluggish days – I sneak in a nap when I can.”

Generally, such a gift comes from a family member or close friend – not a complete stranger from another country.

“Scott’s a one of a kind. I’ve never met anyone like him,” said Phill. “He’s a true Rotarian at heart.”

They also used Friday’s event for the official launch of the Vancouver chapter of the PKD Foundation, which will be based in Maple Ridge.

“It was my way of giving back,” said Phil.

Keesha sees huge demand for the chapter. Kidney patients need a lot of information and support.

“If it weren’t for a way-strict diet, he could have died,” she pointed out.

The transplant has given her a husband back.

“He’s got way more energy,” she said. “He was on the couch for a couple of years.”

Torontonian Jeff Robertson, the executive director of the fledgeling PKD Foundation of Canada, attended the launch of his organization’s chapter.

“This is the first West Coast representation we have,” he said of the foundation, which has been registered nationally for five years. There are chapters in Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa in Ontario, one in Cornerbook, Nfld., and two more in Calgary and Montreal are coming.

The organization offers education about PKD, and will work toward a cure – Robertson clarifies that transplants and dialysis are not cures, and both treatments have “astronomical” costs to the health care system.

They plan to host seminars about PKD every two months.

And they will promote public awareness and improved government policy to facilitate transplants.

“Canada is lagging behind a lot of countries in organ donation,” he said.

He was elated to have the Rosarios join his cause.

“We rely on the local chapters to have a positive impact in their local community,” he said. “This is a big step – having a West Coast chapter.”

Phil is not a Rotarian, but given the way the spirit of the philanthropic organization has so directly affected his life, that may change.

“It’s something I would like to be a part of,” he said.

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