July 16th, 2024

Kidney Foundation to host annual walk


By Lethbridge Herald on June 14, 2024.

Delon Shurtz
LETHBRIDGE HERALD

When Jodi Harkness’s father was only in his 30s, he was diagnosed with a rare form of amyloidosis, a condition that eventually led to kidney failure. 

He received a kidney transplant from his son, which extended his life by a little more than 10 years until he died in 2018.

At the time of the transplant, Jodi was in nursing school.

 Although both siblings were matches for donation, her brother was deemed the better choice, but Jodi’s experience with her father’s illness and transplant profoundly influenced her career.

“I grew an interest in nephrology,” she says.

 “That’s where I am now, and that’s where I plan on staying. I love it.”

As a nurse clinician at the Medicine Hat Hemodialysis Clinic, Jodi has participated for many years in the annual Kidney Foundation Kidney Walk. 

Her involvement goes beyond her professional commitment, however, and she also walks to honour her father’s memory, her brother who is a living kidney donor, and to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation.

“There are a lot of people to walk for; deceased donors, living donors, everyone in the equation,” she says.

Michelle Hofer, manager communications and community development for the southern Alberta branch of The Kidney Foundation of Canada, is planning to participate in the Lethbridge walk on Saturday, and says the goal is to raise $15,000, of which $11,000 had been raised as of Wednesday.

Hofer says many people bring in their donations on the day of the walk, and she encourages people to donate online, as well, by logging onto kidneywalk.ca and following the links. 

Anyone unable to participate in the actual walk can also participate virtually by raising money and walking in another area on their own time during the month of June. 

Anyone interested can sign up for My Walk by going online or calling the southern Alberta branch of the Kidney Foundation at 587-333-4349.

Every year, some 15,000 volunteers and participants take part in the Kidney Walk in communities throughout the country to raise awareness and funds for those affected by kidney disease. Patients, caregivers, medical professionals, family members, and other caring individuals participate in the Kidney Foundation’s cornerstone fundraising event to help support innovative and ground-breaking research projects and to offer crucial programs and services to the thousands of people living with kidney disease.

“It’s very important to show support for your local community, as well as for everyone who is affected by organ donations,” Hofer says.

One in 10 Canadians is living with kidney disease and the number of people diagnosed annually continues to rise, particularly with high incidence rates of diabetes and high blood pressure. 

Because there are often no symptoms until kidney disease is quite advanced, many people aren’t aware that they have the disease until they’ve already lost most of their kidney function.

“Kidney disease is considered sort of a silent disease,” Hofer says.

There is also a misconception that kidney disease only affects an older demographic, but more than 45 per cent of people living with kidney disease are under 65.

While thousands of Canadians have received kidney transplants, many more are on waiting lists hoping to find a match for life-sustaining treatment. Unfortunately the need for organ transplants is much greater than the available supply, and the waitlist for a donation from a deceased donor can be long. 

The median wait time is 3.5 years, and many people wait much longer. For some the wait will be too long.

The Lethbridge walk will be held this Saturday and begins near the horseshoe pits on the northwest side of Henderson Lake, 2710 Parkside Dr. S. 

Registration is at 9 a.m., and the walk begins at 10 a.m.

 One lap around the lake is three kilometres.

The Medicine Hat walk is on Sunday and begins at the Medicine Hat College, Centennial Hall, 299 College Dr. SE. Registration is at 9 a.m., and the walk begins at 10 a.m. One lap is 2.75 kilometres.

Registration for the walks is free, and the event includes games, food, and lots of prizes

Although Jodi has participated in many kidney walks, one in particular stands out in her memory because her father participated despite not having any feeling from his knees down, and he required a walker.

“It was a year when his mobility was decreasing, but he still attempted to do the walk,” Jodi says. 

“I was in awe, watching this man walk the walk.”

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