Organ donation process leads to life-saving discovery for Sask. woman

·3 min read
Cindy Harris, left, stands with her would-be donor Krista Walker.  (Submitted by Krista Walker - image credit)
Cindy Harris, left, stands with her would-be donor Krista Walker. (Submitted by Krista Walker - image credit)

Krista Walker was scrolling through social media in February when she noticed a post that would send her on a journey that saved her life.

The North Battleford woman came across a shared Facebook post of a man saying his mom needed a liver transplant. She felt compelled to reach out after realizing they had matching blood types and was in the right age range.

"I've always been a blood donor and I am an organ donor on my driver's license. And I thought, geez Louise, this guy needs some help for his mom," Walker said in an interview with CBC Morning Edition's Stefani Langenegger.

She reached out to the family, and after discussing it with her own family, called the Living Donor Program in Edmonton to begin the donation process.

Submitted by Krista Walker
Submitted by Krista Walker

The woman needing the transplant, Cindy Harris, lived in Airdrie, Alta. and had a rare disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis that attacks bile ducts.

"It's pretty amazing to know that there's people out there that would do something like that for somebody they don't even know," said Harris about the moment she heard of Walker's intentions.

"It says something about what type of person they are."

After several tests and appointments in Saskatchewan, Walker made her way to Edmonton in April for more in-depth testing.

Less than a half hour after receiving a CT scan, she got a call from the radiologist who told her that they found "something suspicious" on her kidney.

The gift of life

Walker returned to Saskatchewan, and after further testing, was told that there was a tumour on her kidney.

On June 21 Walker was admitted to hospital in Saskatoon, and doctors removed a four-centimetre cancerous tumour from her left kidney.

"My doctor in Saskatoon basically said to me, 'You know, Krista, people don't go for random CTs and MRIs, and you could have gone years with this undetected'," Walker said.

"'You were trying to give somebody the gift of life and she turned around and gave it right back to you,'" she said the doctor told her.

Unfortunately, because of the tumour Walker had to be removed from the donor list, leaving Harris still looking for a liver transplant.

Submitted by Cindy Harris
Submitted by Cindy Harris

"We didn't know what to say because we were worried about her," said Harris.

"On the flip side, it was a relief that they had found it through her testing, trying to help me. And it's a relief knowing that she will be okay."

Walker decided not to let being removed from the donor list stop her pursuit to help Harris, however, and is trying to raise awareness of living organ donation to help Harris and others in need.

Walker says that everybody has something in them that they can gift to someone else to potentially extend their life.

"I made that promise to the clinic in Edmonton and to the Harris family that I'm not getting off the soapbox," she said.

"I want people to know that there are a lot of people on the organ transplant list that need our help."

Submitted by Cindy Harris
Submitted by Cindy Harris

As for Harris, she says she's thankful from the bottom of her heart for Walker's continued advocacy.

"I have a husband and three kids that are married, and I have six grand kids that are my whole world," Harris said.

"I would keep living, it would give me time with my family."

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