“Never give up hope.”
That’s the message from transplant recipient Dan Ervin, now that he’s back in Trail with a new kidney and a new lease on life.
“It’s like I am looking for things to do because I don’t have my ‘job’ of dialysis anymore,” Dan began. “I kept my attitude positive for the 6.5 years (on the transplant list) and I finally got one. I was not going to let this thing beat me and that’s the attitude you’ve got to have,” he said.
“But I don’t think I would have lasted a whole lot longer. So don’t give up hope and don’t get bummed out about it – treat it like it’s your job, otherwise it will beat you.”
The Trail Times first got to know Dan last year after his chance for a new kidney was cancelled before he ever left the Castlegar tarmac.
Weeks later, he was still waiting for a $323.53 refund from Air Canada for the flight he never caught.
Worse still, the money was borrowed from a fellow pensioner and Dan could not pay him back.
After printing Dan’s story at the end of October, the community stepped in to help on the interim – the Kiwanis Club of Trail and the Golden Nugget Saloon from Rossland – contributed money toward his plight and for future medical expenses.
He finally received a full refund from Air Canada the second week of November, but vowed to use a different carrier the next time – after all, Dan was still optimistic he would get a new kidney.
Fast forward to Feb. 13. That’s the day the renal team from St. Paul’s Hospital called to tell Dan, once again, that he had 12 hours to get to the coast for a transplant.
True to his word, this time Dan chose a different airport and another airline.
“I made all the arrangements with Pacific Coastal and I was good to go,” he said. “I flew out of Trail, got to Vancouver, and went directly to the hospital. They brought me right up to my room and at 6:30 the next morning, I was on the operating table,” Dan recalled.
“Eight hours later I woke up in recovery and I had a new kidney.”
After months of living in a suite near the hospital for post-op care, Dan arrived back in town on July 13, or five months to the date that he left.
“Some days are good and some days are bad,” he said. “I’ll be on anti-rejection drugs the rest of my life, and it’ll take up to two years for the kidney to actually settle, but I only had to dialyze once after and then the kidney kicked in.
“There’s no ‘woe is me,'” Dan said with a smile. “And you’ll notice, I have a lot more colour now.”
Though he’s graduated to a cane from a post-surgery walker, Dan’s legs are still weak from poor circulation.
Diagnosed with a heart condition while undergoing kidney care, he’ll be flying back to Vancouver for some less-invasive cardiac surgery.
“My aortic valve is calcified,” he explained. “So I’ll be going back in two or three months, but only for two or three days, because I’ve qualified for an experimental program on what they call a ‘TAVI’ … then my legs will probably start getting better too, so I’m keeping my attitude positive.”
For people who are too ill for open heart surgery, a TAVI (Transcatheter aortic valve implantation) procedure can be used to implant an aortic valve through the femoral artery using a long narrow tube called a catheter.
For years an annual Kidney Walk has been going at Gyro Park in Trail. This year, the fundraising walk is slated for Sunday, Sept. 23, will all proceeds going to better the lives of people living with kidney disease.