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Kidney transplants at 32 – sisters tell their story of being a recipient and a donor

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Image of Fadia and Winnie

When Fadia (R) needed a kidney, her sister was told she wasn’t a match. But Winnie donated a kidney through a Paired Donation Program to ensure her sister also received one.
​(Photo: Courtesy Fadia Jérôme-Smith)


At the age of 28, Fadia Jérôme-Smith suddenly started experiencing severe back pain.

What she initially thought was a mild exercise injury, was actually focal segmental glomerular sclerosis (FSGS), a disease that would eventually reduce her kidney function to 10 per cent.

Several family members completed assessment to see whether they were a match, and none were, including her younger sister Winnie Jérôme. She then turned to the Kidney Paired Donation Program by Canadian Blood Services.

Through this program, Winnie donated a kidney to a patient in Alberta, which then ensured that Fadia received a kidney donation from a donor who was a match.

Trillium Gift of Life Network Logo​On March 3, 2016 at Toronto General Hospital, Fadia, at the age of 32, received her new kidney.

Five days later, healing and already enjoying a healthy kidney, she was discharged.

For this year's National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week (NOTDAW), we interviewed Fadia and Winnie about their experience:

National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week 2016

April 17 – April 23, 2016

How will this transplant change your life?

Fadia: This transplant will change my entire lifestyle. I'll be able to play with my son. I'll be able to run again. I'll be more alert and able to concentrate. I'll have more energy so I'll be able to engage in fun things again. I can be engaged fully in my life at 110 per cent as opposed to 55 per cent.

Winnie: This experience has opened my eyes to the effectiveness of a transplant as I see the changes in Fadia's health. It simply amazes me that with this transplant, her life has forever been changed.

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What do you look forward to the most?

Fadia: I'm of Haitian background so the one food that I love, love, love to eat is plantain bananas. Because it's high in potassium I've had to watch the amount I eat so I'm really looking forward to eating fried plantain with my hot sauce.

Fadia Jérôme-Smith

"Donations seem scary because surgery is scary, but imagine not being able to enjoy your favourite meal or missing out on everyday life because your health prevents you from it. Now which seems scarier?" says Winnie (L) on her kidney donation that led to Fadia receiving her transplant. In this photo, Winnie and Fadia are aged two and five, respectively.
​(Photo: Courtesy Fadia Jérôme-Smith.)


What's the one thing you can do now that you couldn't do before?

Fadia: I can urinate! With kidney disease you don't produce as much. I noticed the different immediately after my transplant. It's a good sign that the kidney is doing exactly what it's supposed to do. It's such a relief.

What would you like to say to your donor/donor's family?

Fadia: Thank you, thank you from the deepest part of my heart for thinking of others.  This is life changing. It's another chance at life. My sister's also a donor, so seeing her go through the process is really admirable. This proves that there is a part of humanity that is still filled with love and life and is always willing to share. Thank you, thank you, merci.

Winnie: The ramifications for the donor are fairly minimal and yet they are life changing for the recipient. Donations seem scary because surgery is scary but imagine not being able to enjoy your favourite meal or missing out on everyday life because your health prevents you from it. Now which seems scarier?   My suggestion to anyone in this situation is to ask questions. The doctors will take care of you and you get to change a life!

Register to be an organ and tissue donor online at www.beadonor.ca​​

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