Former Burns Lake resident Shane Robertson didn’t have to look too far to find the perfect kidney match – his girlfriend.
Robertson found out last Christmas that he had a condition called Berger’s disease. The doctors told him he had anywhere from two weeks to two years to live unless he received a kidney transplant.
“It’s more comforting knowing that it’s coming from her,” said Robertson. “It definitely brings us closer together, there’s no doubt about that.”
The couple has been together for five years, but have known each other for eight. His girlfriend, Anita Tomasello, said on Facebook that she was “blessed and honoured” to be a match.
“Watching the man I love battle end stage kidney disease and taking part in the living kidney donor program has been such a humbling experience,” she said.
They are now waiting for final medical clearances before the transplant can take place in the fall. After the transplant, Robertson will be required to stay close to the hospital in Vancouver for a month. And after that period, he will still need to visit the hospital regularly for a few weeks. Tomasello’s recovery time, on the other hand, will be six to eight weeks.
“We’ll find a hotel that’s right next to the hospital, and we’ll just stay at that hotel together,” said Robertson.
A Go Fund Me page – gofundme.com/shanerobertson – has been set up to help the couple cover the expenses.
“I’ve been out of work since December, and I’m trying to pull the money together so that I can stay right next to the hospital, and I have my mortgage and bills on top of that,” he explained.
Robertson, 44, moved to Burns Lake when he was nine years old and lived in town until he was 35. While living in Burns Lake, he worked as a maintenance worker for the Lakes District Hospital and then for the Flying Dutchman Service. He now lives in Kamloops.
Robertson said the hardest part about this disease has been the “unknowns.”
“The whole not knowing while we wait, that’s probably the hardest part,” he said. “There’s a lot of unknowns – how long is it going to be? Is she going to be a donor? If she’s not a match, how long will it be until we find a match?”
However, he says this disease has also had a silver lining.
“I learned more about myself, that’s for sure; the selfishness that I had, I’ve learned to recognize it and let it go,” he said. “I think that’s one of the big things, is that you don’t really think about yourself anymore as much, you think about the people around you.”
And given that some people may wait 10 or even 15 years for a kidney transplant, he said he considers himself lucky.
“It puts your challenges in perspective when you see people who are in more dire straits than you, and they are actually still relaxed and calm because they’ve learned that,” he said. “And that’s something that I’ve learned too, to be a bit more relaxed.”
Since the diagnosis, Robertson and his family have felt the urge to raise awareness about the need for more kidney donors.
“We’d like to encourage people to go through the process,” he said. “People are really afraid to donate, but those people, once they’ve had a kidney taken from them, they will be just as healthy or healthier as people with two kidneys.”
“At the very least, you’re going to find out if you have any problems with yourself because they do some rigorous medical examination, and if you are picked to be a kidney donor, you are in top notch condition,” he continued.
But most importantly, Robertson added, “You’re saving a life.”