A Waterloo woman has three special reasons to celebrate World Kidney Day and International Women’s Day Thursday after giving birth to three healthy children despite being diagnosed with end-stage kidney disease.
The life-threatening condition makes it extremely difficult for women undergoing dialysis to conceive and carry a baby to term, making Jackson, 12, and twins Emma and Xavier, 7, even more precious to Amy Schlueter.
“Really at the end of the day I have to thank my sister,” she said. “She gave me the opportunity to have children.”
It’s all thanks to a life- and fertility-saving kidney transplant, giving the ‘gift of life’ extra meaning.
Schlueter says she was just 25-years-old when she got the surprising news both her kidneys were failing.
“I wasn’t feeling well,” she said. “I had a headache for a couple of days and then it kept going on, so I went to my family doctor. I was 25. I didn’t think much of it, and he called me back an hour later and said, ‘You have to come back because your kidneys are failing.'”
About 3-million Canadians have chronic kidney disease. Only two per cent of those cases progress to end-stage kidney disease.
A report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) shows there were 5,597 cases of end-stage kidney disease in 2016, with the majority of cases being men over the age of 45.
“When you’re sick with renal failure, (getting pregnant) is exceedingly difficult,” said Dr. Jeff Zaltzman, nephrologist at St. Michael’s Hospital. “For dialysis, which is another option, pregnancies are not great.”
That changes with a transplant, says Dr. Zaltzman, noting fertility often gets restored, although he warns there are precautions.
“We have to make some changes to some of the anti-rejection medications and we don’t like to do that in the first year (after a transplant) if we can avoid that,” he said.
Schlueter gave birth to Jackson in August 2005 and twins Emma and Xavier five years later.
She now says International Women’s Day and World Kidney Day takes on special meaning to her family.
“I’m very much a working woman and a leader in our community who has to fight uphill battles and uphill battles with my health,” Schlueter said. “I think thanks to hard work and support from my husband and my children, I’ve been able to overcome pretty much anything that’s been put in front of me.”
Canadians are encouraged to go to the Be a Donor website and register to be an organ donor.