Heading into an operating room in Vancouver to let doctors remover her left kidney, Cathy Shotton wasn’t nervous, if anything she was feeling confident.
She was, after all, donating her kidney to her 32-year-old daughter, Nicki, to ensure she lives a long life ahead.
“It was an easy decision,” said Cathy of donating her organ.
Nicki and Cathy’s journey began on Jan. 2, when Nicki was dealt a death sentence.
After several weeks of swollen ankles, feeling fatigued and getting sick, Nicki was diagnosed with kidney disease with only 10 per cent function left (normal kidneys function at between 70 to 80 per cent). It was so severe that within 14 days, she was put on dialysis and was told she needed a transplant, as soon as possible if she was going to live.
“I was overwhelmed, surprised and shocked. It came out of the blue and wasn’t something you could prepare for,” said Nicki, a single mother and Langford resident.
Being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 11 and undiagnosed high blood pressure made her search for a kidney even more dire.
Over the next few months, Nicki’s world changed drastically. After being on hemodialysis for a few months, in which she had a catheter inserted into her neck, she was eventually switched over to peritoneal or home dialysis that allowed her to move in with her mother and spend time with her six-year-old daughter, Makaela.
At the same time Nicki was going through dialysis, Cathy and the rest of the family were doing what they could to help. Cathy, her husband and two sons went through the necessary testing to see if any were a match to donate their kidney. As time went on family members were eliminated, until they found one that was a perfect match.
At the age of 58, Cathy was O positive, had matching antibodies and a kidney that functioned at 94 per cent.
On Sept. 20 at 8:30 a.m., Cathy headed into the operating room, where they removed her left kidney and transplanted it into Nicki at around noon.
It’s been more than two weeks since the surgery and the duo are both recovering nicely.
Cathy has returned home, however, Nicki must stay in Vancouver for the next two to three months to ensure her body doesn’t reject its new organ, but said she feels “amazingly good.”
“When you’ve got 94 per cent kidney function and your daughter has six per cent … to watch her go from six per cent to 64 per cent [function], I’m just so thrilled,” said Cathy, noting because of Nicki’s age, she’ll likely need another kidney transplant in roughly 15 to 20 years, as well as a pancreas transplant in the near future as well.
Now, the community is rallying behind the family. The Sooke School District’s PACE musical theatre program, which Nicki has been a part of for the past 20 years, is hosting a fundraising concert for the Shottons. The Oct. 21 concert at the Isabelle Reader Theatre (1026 Goldstream Ave.) includes performances by alumni and current PACE members.
“People really wanted to do something to help, so we thought this might be the best way we could show our support for her and raise some money at the same time,” said Sandy Webster-Worthy, artistic director of PACE. “Nicki gives PACE about 300 to 400 hours of her time a year and has been doing it for 20 years. It felt like the right thing to do.”
Money raised will be put towards a fund for Nicki and the family, which will be used to purchase an insulin pump, pay for travel expenses, and help cover the cost of the anti-rejection drugs that Nicki will need to take for the rest of her life.
Nicki’s co-workers also set up an online fundraising campaign earlier this year which raised more than $17,000 of its $5,000 goal.
Tickets for the PACE concert are $10 and can be purchased at the theatre on Sundays between 1 and 9 p.m., by calling 250-474-3081 or at the door.
For more information search Nicki, Cathy, and Makaela’s Journey of Love on Facebook.