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Hammerschmidt badly needs kidney

By Lorraine Graves

Published 12:45 PDT, Thu March 12, 2020

Last Updated: 1:00 PDT, Thu March 12, 2020

Richmond’s Rob Hammerschmidt has enjoyed a new lease on life for 11 years thanks to a kidney donated by his father, former Richmond Secondary teacher Roman Hammerschmidt.

After years of deteriorating kidney function from a problem he was born with, and after a host of energy-zapping symptoms, Rob had a kidney transplant. He noticed a difference immediately.

He began working, and along with his wife Kathleen, a photographer, travelled the globe. He also took up sports like skiing and cycling.

But after more than a decade of vibrant health, Rob’s body started rejecting his dad’s kidney. Although he takes anti-rejection drugs daily, over the past few months his kidney function has been whittled away by chronic rejection.

Because his are not the normal short bouts of intense rejection—which can be controlled with doses of immune-calming drugs—it has been a waiting game.  

“(My kidney function) has just slowly gone down even though they’ve tried lots of treatments,” he says. 

Now, Rob is waiting for surgery to prepare for dialysis. Dialysis will keep him alive, but he won’t feel as healthy as when he had Roman’s functioning kidney. 

When he first told his dad the kidney was failing, Roman replied: “I wish that it had lasted longer, that it was stronger.”

“After time, once (my dad) was able to process it, he understood it was 11 years that I didn’t have before,” says Rob. “And in those 11 years I did some pretty awesome stuff.” 

Roman came to understand the donor kidney failure was caused by gradual attacks from Rob’s own immune system. 

“It was important to me that he understood (the problem) was nothing he did or his organ did,” says Rob.  

Other family members have been tested, but so far no one is a close enough match.  

“If someone is assessed and accepted as a living donor and is a match, then they can donate directly to a person,” says BC Transplant’s Irene Phan. “If they're not a match, they could possibly enter into the paired exchange program, and donate on behalf of a person.”

To become a living donor, check out transplant.bc.ca/livingdonation. You can also sign up to be an organ donor upon death at transplant.bc.ca

“We always encourage people to take two minutes to register and have a conversation with their family about their wishes. It may not directly help Rob, but it could be life-saving for someone else like him,” says Phan.

Today, no longer able to work, Rob says he makes a point of getting up when his wife goes to work. He takes care of their dog Mia, rests, naps and tries to have dinner on the table for Kathleen when she gets home. 

Trying to be accepting of the constant fatigue, high blood pressure and nausea, he says, “It’s kind of become my new normal.”

For more information go to robneedsakidney.ca.

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