Wednesday, 15 June 2016

The Elevator

My lowest moment was on an elevator ride in 2008.

I had been an inpatient at Grand River Hospital for about a week, a crash start on dialysis and a newbie in the world of renal. I had never heard of creatinine, heparin or hemo, and at the age of twenty-three I had definitely never had a catheter, a sponge bath or my daily percentage of sodium monitored.

But there I was. A crash course in all things kidney.

The night before I was admitted to the hospital I went to the movie Stepbrothers, ate nachos, candy and played games on the deck with my parents and now husband. That weekend I was planning on going to Toronto to a party with friends. I dreamed, I danced, I was a normal twenty-three year old.

I had been feeling extremely fatigued and had flu like symptoms for quite some time, so my mother persisted that I go to the doctor to ensure nothing was wrong. After much annoyance, I listened and got blood work done.

The call came at 2am. My mom answered to a cold voice on the other line asking "Is Candice Coghlan there", which she replied "Yes, who is this? She is sleeping". "This is the lab at Grand River Hospital, can you please make sure is just sleeping?". My mother whipped open my bedroom, flew on the lights and I was in the car faster than I could fall back asleep.

Once admitted, after several vials of blood taken, multiple IV injections, medications and no word on why I was there, a doctor came to visit. He stood in the doorway and said "You are in complete renal failure. Your creatinine is over 1000 and I am shocked you are alive. You will start dialysis tomorrow."

Down the rabbit hole I went.

I will explain more about the Adventures in Renal Land another day, but for now, I focus on that elevator.

I had begun dialysis, multiple treatments and had been living in Grand River as an inpatient for a week or so. It was the middle of the afternoon and time to go down for my dialysis treatment. At the time I was exhausted and weak, so I used a wheelchair to get around. As with every treatment, my mom pushed me into the elevator to go down for the five hour cycle. I got in and went down one floor. The doors opened and three young people got in, laughing, telling a story and clearly excited for their plans in the sun that day.

I don't recall what they said, or who they were but I will never forget their happiness.

I remember being so angry at them. So angry that they were walking, that they were laughing, and that they were happy. I was angry that they were healthy and that they were leaving. They were ME, one week before, and it made me angry.

Some days are tough. Some days you question why? Some days you aren't strong.

I was so full of rage and sadness but I got out of that elevator. I did my dialysis. I did it for just over a year, and I was blessed with a transplant from the same woman who pushed me to my dialysis each day. I am treated now and have a pretty normal life as a transplant recipient.

But I will never forget the elevator. In that moment, I questioned why?

I had the luxury of getting treatment that gave me back my life. I HAVE the luxury of living in a country where I didn't pay the $60,000 it costs to do dialysis for one year, or the $23,000 to have the transplant, or the $6,000-$10,000 per year now for the anti-rejection medication. I had the luxury of having a mom who would and COULD give me a kidney. I HAVE the luxury of taking medication that keeps me alive.

No, I am not cured. There is no cure, but there is treatment. Really, really, really great treatment. Treatment that is readily available to me, treatment that has low side effects, treatment that gives me freedom. Treatment that lets me walk around and have no one know I am a kidney recipient. Treatment that allowed me to finish my degree, buy a house and marry my favourite person. Treatment that lets me work a job that I adore, that I am passionate about and that I am proud of.

The people who I work for, the people I rally for, the people who give me hope and passion, the people of Lesotho; they do not have the same luxuries.

We lost a beautiful soul yesterday, one of our Foster Mothers, Annah. I did not have the pleasure of meeting her but through stories, photos and emails from our friends in Lesotho, I was able to learn about her incredible heart, her strength and her passion to raise up to eight children at a time in our Foster Homes. Annah had cervical cancer and was HIV+. Many of our Foster Children are also HIV+. In fact, 1 in 4 people in Lesotho are HIV+, which has left behind over 200,000 orphaned children.

Despite the country making progress in many areas, Lesotho’s HIV treatment coverage for adults and children still remains low. The treatment that they do have is also not the same treatment we have in Canada. Securing funding for HIV programmes is vital to ensuring increased coverage. This begs the question WHY?

Why don't we have more funding? Why can't we get them the medication they need? Why can't we get a LOUDER voice for the people fighting HIV/AIDS every day? 

Why don't people care that our children are dying? 

Our mothers, our grandmothers, our fathers, our children are dying. Over 20 years ago HIV was a death sentence in Canada but now, it is a chronic, manageable disease, with very reliable treatment. We need the same results in Lesotho. We need to keep fighting to stop HIV from taking the lives of those we love.

We can't stop fighting for the ones we love. 
My family didn't stop fighting for me. 

I won't stop fighting. 

So join me. Join us. Join the fight. We need your help. We need your
Annah Mohapi

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