Tania Campfield and John Kalinich met on an online dating site three years ago.
As their love for each other grew, Campfield nor Kalinich could imagine just how close they would end up becoming.
Not only would the couple be engaged three years later and living in a new house in Pitt Meadows. But Kalinich would be the recipient of one of Campfield’s kidneys.
Kalinich was born with autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease. According to the Mayo Clinic it is a hereditary disease where clusters of cysts develop in the kidneys causing them to enlarge and deteriorate as a person gets older.
The PKD Foundation of Canada states it is one of the most common life-threatening genetic diseases. It affects around one in 500 people and parents have a 50 per cent chance of passing it onto their children – as it does not skip a generation.
Although many people with the disease can live symptom-free for many years, Kalinich was surprised how fast the disease took hold of his kidneys.
“I found out I had the disease when I was 18,” explained Kalinich, who found out along with his brother after an ultrasound. At the time their father, who also had the disease, was at the point where he required a kidney donation.
Kalinich had lived relatively alright with the disease until recently. However, during the last four years doctors had been monitoring his kidney function closely through monthly blood tests. Then, in March, 2019, doctors told him his kidney function had dropped to a point where he should be preparing himself for either a transplant or dialysis.
By then his kidneys were so large, they were the size of footballs, said Campfield.
That’s when Campfield stepped in and decided to be tested to see if she could be a live donor.
To be a donor you have to be a blood match, said the Pitt Meadows mortgage broker, and then doctors have to make sure you are healthy enough to donate.
Doctors told them the odds of her being able to donate her kidney were low.
Siblings only have a 25 per cent chance of being an exact match for a living donor and only a 50 per cent chance of being a half match, according to the Columbia University Department. Although the Kidney Foundation of Canada says a donor can also be a spouse, friend, co-worker or even a stranger.
Campfield went through eight months of testing. The first test determined she was exactly the same blood type as Kalinich. But, in November, with one last antibody test to go, they were given the final approval.
“They called me and said everything is good, and you’re approved, and I just starting crying,” said Campfield who was at home working at the time. Then she phoned Kalinich.
“He started crying too,” she said.
“For her to be a 100 per cent match was pretty amazing,” added Kalinich.
As they were waiting to find out when the surgery would take place, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the couple were afraid that he might have to go on dialysis instead of having surgery because surgeries were being postponed across the province.
However, in July, doctors slated the surgery for Aug. 31, to give them enough time to quarantine for two weeks prior to the date.
Days before the quarantine, Kalinich asked Campfield if she wanted to go for a drive with him to pick up car parts at a Lordco in Langley. Campfield agreed, wanting to get out.
But when they arrived at their destination it was a Spence Diamonds instead.
Then, in the most romantic way, Campfield noted, Kalinich asked her to marry him.
“Well, you are going to marry me, aren’t you,” he asked Campfield, who was in shock. They had the ring delivered to the house so she could have it during the time they were in quarantine.
While Campfield’s surgery only took two hours, Kalinich spent six hours in surgery and another 12 days in the hospital.
Usually damaged kidneys don’t have to be removed when performing a transplant. But because his were so big, weighing about 10,433 grams together, compared to about 160 grams each for normal functioning kidneys, doctors had to remove them.
A body scan at the hospital showed his kidneys bulging out his back and his intestines pushed right against his abdominal wall.
During surgery doctors had to crush them in a bag inside of him before being able to remove them through the small incision they made in his body.
“I didn’t realize they were as big as they were. I thought I maybe had a little bit of a beer belly at 50 years old,” said Kalinich who said he got back aches frequently.
“It was like I was packing around twins,” he said.
Although Kalinich will have to take anti-rejection medication for the rest of his life, he is feeling great.
“I feel like a new man,” he said.
He hopes that his daughter, who is 25, and his son, who is 22, who have both been diagnosed with PKD, will not have to go through what he did. He is hoping advances in the treatment of the disease will benefit them when they reach his age.
Campfield was just happy to be able to help.
“I couldn’t wait for him to start healing and get to a better place.”
They have already finished planning their wedding, she said. The big day is set for Aug. 7, 2021.