Our Dad, the Transplant Rock-Star

By Kennedie and Mikaela Maidment

In the spirit of Father’s Day, we are delighted to have Kennedie and Mikaela Maidment serve as guest writers for our June blog! It is often said that the impact of organ donation extends far beyond the donor and recipient. For the Maidment sisters, whose dad underwent a liver transplant, the road to health has been a family affair. From the perspective of two grateful daughters, we bring you the story of one family’s journey with transplant.

“Would he be alive to walk us down the aisle on our wedding days?” was always in the back of Kennedie’s and Mikaela’s minds as they watched their dad struggle with end-stage liver disease.

We are Kennedie and Mikaela Maidment, and we are honoured to be writing this month’s blog. We joke that although we aren’t transplant recipients ourselves, we were basically “born” in to transplant life. As young girls, living in beautiful Kamloops, no one expected our dad to wake up incredibly jaundiced and ill one day in 1998.  Our mom was beside herself with two small children to care for and suddenly an extremely sick husband. After many tests and doctor’s appointments, our dad was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). PSC is an auto-immune liver disease affecting the common bile duct connecting the liver and the digestive system, often leading to liver failure.

Transplant life is a family affair for the Maidments.

We first heard the word ‘transplant’ later that year  when our dad underwent his first transplant assessment. He was not a suitable candidate at the time and instead underwent surgery conducted by Dr. Charles Scudamore (a main character in our story). This helped to dramatically alleviate his symptoms and he was back to being our normal, healthy dad. Our lives continued to center around his disease, but we made it work. We normalized bi-annual trips to Vancouver to see Dr. Scudamore and always waited for his compliment about our matching dresses or shoes. We also vaguely remember lollipops once or twice. To us, this is just what every family did.

Fast forward to 2008. A flare up of dad’s PSC resulted in a rush trip to Vancouver and a repeat surgery from Dr. Scudamore. This was the last surgery dad would be able to have to correct his PSC issues. Surgery was successful and he was once again able to resume a relatively normal life that involved running, biking, and swimming – the whole triathlon game.

It was 2011 when the story went sideways. Dad had become incredibly unwell – he was jaundiced and had a large ascites (fluid-filled) belly. With the added diagnosis of auto-immune hepatitis, we had reached a point where transplant was his only hope.  This time we were old enough to remember and appreciate all that was happening. It was overwhelming to say the least! Fortunately, dad was listed for a liver transplant. But what we thought would be a short wait turned out to be six long years. Six years of wavering health, six years full of milestones that dad missed due to being unwell. There were many hospitalizations due to frequent infections and his quality of life was significantly diminished.

There was also a dry run, which in the transplant world means a false alarm. It just so happened this event occurred on the same day that Mikaela was turning 19 years old. A day to remember is an understatement. The donor liver was deemed unsuitable for transplant and so the surgery was cancelled. We all returned home. We were absolutely crushed. Now we can laugh about it, referring to it as the time “when dad stole Mikaela’s birthday thunder” or “ruined her birthday”.

We remained hopeful. We rationalized that this must mean dad was close to the top of the list. It was seven months after the dry run, and the first day that Kennedie was starting her job as a registered nurse, that the actual call finally came!  Being dutiful daughters – and millennials, we kept our family and friends well informed via our social media accounts. It also helped us feel useful in the face of such a challenging recovery for our dad. With one of us an ICU nurse and another an aesthetician, we weren’t sure what was better: knowing what to expect or ignorance being bliss. Either way, we were at dad’s side seeing him through two more surgeries, dialysis, extubation, and finally a move up to the transplant floor.

From that point forward, it was a blur of healing and gaining strength. We made multiple trips back and forth to Vancouver to visit, and we were so lucky to have the Stacey House to stay at during our entire tenure down at the coast. We celebrated dad’s 49th birthday with a party of recipients on VGH’s transplant ward.

A liver transplant has made it possible for Tony to walk his two girls down the aisle next year!

Now four years post-transplant, here we are making the most of dad’s second chance at life! We are active volunteers with BC Transplant, we’ve cheered dad on at the Canadian Transplant Games, and we’ve continued to make trips to transplant clinic as a family. We’ve also both moved out and bought houses, advanced in our careers, and watched mom and dad celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary with a trip to Hawaii. Life has carried on. But we have never lost sight of how lucky we are to have our dad with us. We used to wonder if our dad would be here to celebrate our life achievements. Would he be alive to walk us down the aisle on our wedding days? Now we don’t have to worry as much about that and instead focus on the future, especially with both of us getting married next year! That will be a huge milestone we can’t wait to share with our entire family, and of course keeping our donor family in mind and close to our hearts, as we always do.

We still worry about dad. We know transplant is not a cure. Instead, it replaces one disease with the new condition of post-transplant life. Yes, it is less lethal, but not entirely. Transplant has meant the world to both of us and our family. It’s given us hope, and life, and most importantly it’s given us all of YOU – the extended transplant family we love dearly. However, we can’t stop here. Research around organ donation and transplantation must continue.

We both hope that research can advance enough so we see the day there is no more waiting list. We hope the side effects of transplant medications can be a thing of the past. Maybe medications will be made obsolete with stem cell research, or 3D printing so the threat of rejection is gone and there is no need for immunosuppression! With the continued support of transplant research, we hope to see a day where transplant is a cure. We want our dad to be able to enjoy the rest of his life without worrying about medication, follow up, rejection, or cancer.

Thank you for reading our story. Please reach out to us if we aren’t already friends. We love growing our transplant family. And please, please, please support transplant research. More daddies need to be there to walk their little girls (or boys)   down the aisle.

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