Pat Haddad did not stop to ponder one of the most momentous decisions of her life; she made it instantaneously.
Pat’s spouse Rod and another Salmon Arm resident, Bill Fish, were both working at BC Hydro at the time.
Haddad had met Fish a couple of times at company parties. At some point, Haddad heard he was in need of a kidney transplant.
Fish was suffering from hereditary polycystic kidney disease, which fills the kidney with cysts, enlarging it until it loses function. Bill’s son could have been a donor, but Fish wanted him to save his kidney for his sister, in case she needed it.
Early that summer, Haddad drove downtown and stepped out of her car when Arlene, Bill’s spouse, walked past.
Haddad describes the moment that occurred more than 10 years ago.
“It was like a momentary, sudden, shot in the head, and I said ‘Arlene, I hear Bill needs a kidney’ and she said, ‘Yes he does.’ I said, ‘Well what blood type is he?’ and she said, ‘I don’t know.’ I said, ‘Well you know what, I’m going to go get tested and we’re going to match.’ And that was an instantaneous thing. I said, ‘We’re going to match.’”
Haddad drove straight home and phoned the Kidney Foundation in Vancouver. She provided her name and the donee’s.
The foundation began the testing to see if Haddad would be a viable donor. Lots and lots of testing, she said. Testing which, ultimately, did not just benefit Fish.
The tests revealed that Haddad needed a parathyroidectomy, because her thyroid was stealing calcium out of her system.
“I would have never found out until I fell and broke a major bone,” she explained. “So it was a blessing in disguise for me.”
That piece of news also made a difference for Fish.
“She had a little problem too. When they did all the tests on her and they found out, they probably saved her life too, going down the same road as her mother did. So I felt a little better then,” he said, his voice filled with emotion.
“There’s nothing you can do to repay somebody. I’m not a religious person, but it sure makes you think somebody is looking after you, right?”
In October 2010 Haddad had the thyroid surgery, which didn’t affect her ability to be a donor. In fact, she never wavered. Although Fish was unsure whether Haddad would be a match, she was always certain.
When Haddad returned to Salmon Arm two days after the thyroid operation, she was greeted with a phone message. The kidney transplant surgery was a go; it was scheduled for Jan. 17, 2011.
By this time Fish was quite sick. His kidney function was down to about 12 per cent of normal. Following the surgery, which is done laparoscopically, the results were dramatic – like night and day, he announced happily.
Haddad said Fish would say to her that she’d given him a life.
“I said no, no, I didn’t give you a life, I gave you your life back, but I didn’t give you a life.”
The pair will soon celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the surgery. Haddad is now 75 and Fish, nearly 68. They refer to each other as brother and sister.
“They kept saying to him, are you sure you’re not related to her, you’re such a close match? He would say no, we’re not related,” smiled Haddad.
They see each other a couple of times a year, and both know they would do anything for the other.
Arlene says with a smile that Bill eats too much ice cream now that he has Haddad’s kidney, because that’s what she does.
“I have a sweet tooth now,” laughs Bill.
Both Fish and Haddad emphasize the same message to the public. If you want to be a donor, sign up now. The Kidney Foundation of Canada, BC & Yukon Branch can be found via Facebook or its website. BC Transplant’s Living Donation website can be found at http://www.transplant.bc.ca/health-info/organ-donation/living-donation.
“We’re all the same way, our lives are too busy to put an ‘X’ on that piece of paper, but it could save a life,” he urged.
“It’s probably one of the biggest, momentous things you can do in your life for somebody.”