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The ultimate gift: Port aux Basques man receives a new kidney thanks to organ donation

Andy and Tammy Porter at the Victoria General Hospital following the transplant.
Andy and Tammy Porter at the Victoria General Hospital following the transplant.

PORT AUX BASQUES, N.L. - An unexpected call in the wee hours of the morning on May 23 changed Andy Porter’s life forever – or in the man’s own words “gave me back to my family.”

The call, which he received about 5:30 a.m., was from the province’s organ transplant coordinator.

“She said, ‘We got an air ambulance coming from St. John’s and landing in Stephenville in roughly an hour and a half.’ She said, ‘They’re coming to get you to take you to your new kidney,’” the 31-year-old remembers.

The news left him speechless.

“I couldn’t even speak to Tammy (Porter’s wife). I started slapping her on the arm. She woke up and saw me there with tears running down my face. She knew right then and there what the phone call was all about. I didn’t even have to tell her,” Porter said.

Within hours, Porter was at the Victoria General Hospital in Halifax. Later that evening he had a kidney transplant.

“I went into surgery about 7:30 (p.m.). At about 12:30 (a.m.) I started asking for my cell phone. They told me it was out in my room because I was in recovery. I told them I needed to call my wife to tell her I was okay. Just as soon as I said that, she burst into the room and said, ‘Don’t worry. I’m here.’”

According to the federal government’s Healthy Canadians website (www.healthycanadians.gc.ca) in 2014, over 4500 Canadians were waiting for organ transplants. Over 2,350 organs were transplanted in 2014. Sadly, 278 people died while waiting for their transplant.

One organ donor can save up to eight lives and help improve the life of more than 75 people.

Porter had been on the transplant list for less than a year.

The young father had no inkling his kidneys weren’t functioning properly until elevated creatinine levels (which signify impaired kidney function or kidney disease) were detected in routine blood tests in 2012.

After further follow-up, he was diagnosed with a rare disease in which the immune system attacks the kidneys.

“I was dumbfounded when the doctor was telling me. I couldn’t believe he was talking about me,” Porter recalled.

Porter was followed closely over the years with his creatinine levels continuing to increase.

By 2016 his levels were still increasing, yet he continued to feel well – until a bad flu took him off his feet.

“I was in bed for close to 12 days. Tammy thought I was done. I was grey. It was horrible.”

Porter started dialysis in May 2016.

Initially he had to travel over 200 kilometres (and over two hours) from his home in Port aux Basques to the hospital in Corner Brook to receive his dialysis.

“It was icing on top of the cake when they set me up to get it at Port aux Basques,” he said.

Porter and Tammy have a six-year-old son, Nathan, and a four-year-old daughter, Anna.

His parents Jeff and Daphne Porter also live in Port aux Basques.

Porter said he is grateful to family members for taking care of his children while he and his wife were in Halifax and to his employer and co-workers at Mackenzie Ambulance Service and his wife’s employer and co-workers at Hotel Port aux Basques for fundraising on his family’s behalf.

He is also grateful to his wife’s cousin Crystal Ingram and her husband Kevin of Eastern Passage who showed them much kindness during their stay in Nova Scotia.

“They threw a beautiful celebration for me when I got out of hospital. We had a barbecue and music. It was so nice of them,” he said.

Porter said his life has changed dramatically since he received his new kidney.

His energy level is better than it’s been in a long time, he said.

“Before, you’d need a winch and a rope to haul me out of bed. Now, I’m up most mornings at seven o’clock. If I can stay in bed until 8:30 it’s a miracle.”

Porter has his medical clearance to return to work in August.

“And I can’t wait to get back,” he said.

He hopes the family of the individual who donated the kidney realizes just what the transplant means to him and how grateful he is for the life-saving gift.

“Just to be able to say thank-you. They gave me back to my family. And it’s been wonderful ever since.”

For further information on organ donation, call the Organ Procurement and Exchange of Newfoundland and Labrador at 777-6600 or toll free at 1-877-640-1110. Information can also be found at www.easternhealth.ca.

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