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Saskatoon woman finds creative way to seek kidney donor

Saskatoon woman finds creative way to seek kidney donor thumbnail

“Whether it gets me a kidney or not, it’s just going to bring much more awareness to this for all the other people waiting, too.”

Debbie Onishenko is in need of a kidney transplant and has placed a sign on her car window asking for a donor. Photo taken in Saskatoon, SK on Tuesday, August 9, 2022.
Debbie Onishenko is in need of a kidney transplant and has placed a sign on her car window asking for a donor. Photo taken in Saskatoon, SK on Tuesday, August 9, 2022. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Debbie Onishenko needs a kidney, and she’s not alone.

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“The list is over 60 people now, but it keeps growing … and it’s really hard to get donors anymore,” she said.

Onishenko decided to take matters into her own hands. She saw a report about a man in Ontario who posted an ad on his car that resulted in a kidney donation, so she decided to try the same thing.

“I went down to LB Signs, and they did a magnificent job of making a sign for the back of my car … They were just amazing,” she said.

The sign reads: “Kidney needed, type O. Share your spare,” and includes Onishenko’s phone number.

“I’m driving around town hoping that someone will see it and either be able to donate the kidney to me or realize that we need more people out there donating,” she said.

Reception to the sign, which has now been up for a few weeks, has been positive. Onishenko said she has heard from a few people in similar situations who are happy to see her raising awareness about the need for donors.

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“Whether it gets me a kidney or not, it’s just going to bring much more awareness to this for all the other people waiting, too … donations are very, very important,” she said.

Even with this added measure, Onishenko, who has been on the wait-list for more than five years, said she knows it can be hard to find a match. She hopes this will encourage more people to get tested to donate.

“The more people to get tested, the better the odds are to find a match,” she said.

Onishenko, 62, has had Type 1 diabetes since early childhood, which has put a strain on her kidneys. They are currently functioning at about nine per cent capacity, which means she will soon need dialysis if she can’t find a donor.

Because she also has a heart condition, this would mean peritoneal dialysis, which requires surgery to have a port put in and would further limit her capabilities.

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Right now, she has reduced energy and body swelling. Regular things like grocery shopping, social visits and caring for elderly family members are difficult for her, and she needs more and more rest.

A new kidney would mean “a whole new life” Onishenko said with emotion. “It would just mean everything.”

She would be able to enjoy a long walk and extended time with family again, she said.

“Just to be able to be a little freer and feel healthier, to have a day when you’re not sick all the time. I just want to tell people that health is the most important thing. Do not take it for granted.”

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jbennett@postmedia.com

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