When Scott Skrubbeltrang was first diagnosed with kidney disease, he was just 26-years-old and down to about 30-per-cent kidney function, and rapidly declining.Not long after, he started dialysis, a procedure that helps to remove waste and excess fluid from the blood when kidneys can’t.
The Port Colborne resident, now 52, was on dialysis three days a week for nearly five hours per session.
“The whole day you’re on dialysis and the next day are wasted because it takes so much out of you,” he says. “It’s absolutely exhausting.”
He underwent his first kidney transplant surgery in 2000 after matching with his mother. Unfortunately, the transplant failed immediately, causing Skrubbeltrang to go back on dialysis until his second transplant in 2002, this time from his cousin. This time, the transplant was a success.
“My wife Andrea cried for a week after it worked,” says Skrubbeltrang of his late wife. “We decided that as long as I was on dialysis, we wouldn’t have kids. It’s brutally hard on you. Once it worked, we decided to finally have kids.”
Their eldest daughter, Robyn, was born in 2003, followed by Olivia in 2006.
However, in 2008, Skrubbeltrang’s body started rejecting the kidney, requiring him to go back on dialysis until 2010, when he received his third transplant – this time from his sister – which continues to work perfectly.
“The gift of a transplant is life-altering,” he says. “I can live a normal life now. The simple things mean a lot, and they’re the things most people take for granted.”
He says something as simple as being able to drink orange juice and carry a water bottle on a walk are things he wasn’t able to do for years.
One donor can save up to eight lives, and an additional 75 lives can be improved through the gift of tissue. For example, eyes can restore sight; skin can help patients heal from burns; bones can be used for joint replacements; heart valves can help with congenital heart disease; and tendons and ligaments can help recipients walk and run. Live organ donors, such as for kidneys, do not need to know the person they are donating to.
Regardless of age or medical condition, everyone is a potential donor. However, while 90 per cent of Ontarians support organ donation, only 35 per cent register, which takes two minutes at BeaDonor.ca
Those who wish to register to become an organ and/or tissue donor should share their wishes with their loved ones.
Dr. Hari Vasan, Niagara Health’s Hospital Donation Physician and Medical Director of the Critical Care Response Team, says each transplant is considered on a case-by-case basis.
“Never assume that you can’t be an organ donor,” he says. “If one organ is ruled out, a different organ can be accepted.”
Vasan knows firsthand the impact that registering to be a donor can make. His father received a kidney transplant, which inspired him to help those in need of transplants as part of his life’s work.
“I still remember when we got the call that a suitable organ donor had been found. My dad was able to be a more productive member of society and didn’t have to spend hours a week in the hospital for dialysis.”
Approximately 1,400 people in Ontario are waiting for an organ transplant. Unfortunately, many people pass away while waiting because a suitable donor isn’t found in time.
“My cousin is thriving; my mom, who is now 78, is travelling the world; my sister worked as a police officer having donated a kidney,” says Skrubbeltrang. “You can live and function with one kidney. It’s not a small thing to do, but you can go on living your life like it didn’t happen while altering someone else’s. It’s the ultimate act of giving.”
Skrubbeltrang, who is retired, spends most of his time with his daughters, coaching hockey and volunteering with the Port Colborne Golden Puck Committee.
He also loves travelling, which wasn’t possible during his years on dialysis. He says he’s helping make dents in one of his best friends’ bucket list, who passed away from cancer. Along with a group of friends, he’s visiting every major football stadium in the United States. Together, they bring a vial of his friend’s ashes everywhere they go, living life to the fullest.