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Number of Canadians on life-changing dialysis has increased
Dialysis is a life-changing process: Susan’s story

February 2017

CIHI’s new report High Risk and High Cost: Focus on Opportunities to Reduce Hospitalizations of Dialysis Patients in Canada found that the number of patients on dialysis has increased 30% over the last 10 years. More than 36,000 Canadians (excluding Quebec) are living with end-stage kidney disease (ESKD); 58.5% receive dialysis, while 41.5% have had a kidney transplant.

Dialysis: “It’s life-changing”

Susan McKenzie knows that dialysis is a life-changing process. She is a former dialysis patient, a transplant recipient and the senior director of development at The Kidney Foundation of Canada. She started dialysis in her early 40s and was otherwise healthy before her kidney disease rapidly progressed.

“Dialysis is life-changing and a really tough adjustment to make. I was working, I had a family and my kids were still in school. It was very disruptive,” says McKenzie.

“It’s not just scary because of the treatment, but because it’s the beginning of a path where you don’t know where it’s going to go,” she continues. “Are you going to be on dialysis the rest of your life? Are you going to get sicker while on dialysis?”

The transplant

McKenzie was on dialysis for one year before she received a kidney transplant. She says trying to live a normal life on dialysis was a challenge and she was unsure how much longer she would have been able to juggle everything.

Her kidney donor was a living donor who was a family member by marriage. McKenzie says her donor saw she needed help and asked what she could do.

The transplant was successful and McKenzie is healthy; however, her life is still affected by kidney disease. Her 29-year-old daughter, Alexandra, was recently diagnosed with stage 5 kidney disease — chronic kidney disease runs in the family.

McKenzie does not want her daughter to go through dialysis as a young person. The family is trying to be proactive and is working to find a living donor transplant for a pre-emptive transplant (one done before ever starting dialysis). McKenzie says a living donation can be one of the most meaningful things that a person can do in their life.

“My donor has told me many times that donating a kidney has really changed her life for the better,” says McKenzie.

Susan McKenzie (right) and her daughter Alexandra (left)

Learn more

For more information about kidney donation, please visit The Kidney Foundation of Canada’s website. For information on dialysis and organ donation in Canada, read CIHI’s reports High Risk and High Cost: Focus on Opportunities to Reduce Hospitalizations of Dialysis Patients in Canada and Annual Statistics on Organ Replacement in Canada: Dialysis, Transplantation and Donation, 2006 to 2015.