IanIt was the 5th of August 1977; a beautiful summer’s day – actually, a perfect day to take one’s new sailboat out for its inaugural sail. That was Ian’s plan that day; he and his brother-in-law, Fred, were about to set sail when the O.P.P. showed up. They were bringing news to Ian that a match had been found and that University Hospital was waiting to go ahead with the kidney transplant. Ian’s mind was swirling. Great news! Or was it? What if the transplant failed and I will never have the opportunity to sail my boat this summer? Let’s rewind a bit.

In 1972, Ian was asked to take routine medical; a regular practice back then when one was applying for a new job. His blood pressure was abnormally high; further tests would show that Ian had reflux: a condition where urine is forced back up into the kidneys. Rather than a new job, it was the beginning of a new lifestyle for Ian as his high blood pressure would have to be attended to. A couple years after receiving this news, Ian was t-boned in a car accident. It resulted in a broken hip, traction, and a whole lot of physiotherapy.

In 1975, after two hip surgeries – the final one resulting in a hip fusion, the kidney function had deteriorated to the point that it was suggested that Ian begins dialysis. Three times per week, he would make the trip to Victoria Hospital, in London, Ontario, for dialysis. Some days were rougher than others as he suffered from exhaustion and/or nausea.

Fast forward to August 5, 1977, the day he received news that a kidney had been obtained and he would have the opportunity for a new lease on life. It was still early in the transplant programme at University Hospital in London so there were a lot of unknowns and uncertainties. The surgery was a success and Ian’s body quickly accepted the new organ. Soon afterwards, Ian registered for classes at Fanshawe College and, a couple of years later, he was hired to work in IT at Amway of Canada.

Ian and I would meet in 1980 and we were married a year later. Of course, no one is ever sure how long they will walk this earth; however, we set out embracing every moment as it was not known how long a transplanted kidney would last.

Between 1982 and 1986, we were blessed with four healthy sons – Christopher, Peter, Thomas, and Michael. As the boys grew, Ian remained as active as possible – working at Amway and around the house, coaching soccer, preparing meals – an all-round great husband and father.

I recall that at times Ian would consider the things he would likely not experience in life – his sons’ graduations, their weddings, grandchildren. God, however, had other plans for Ian.

The years have passed, and Ian has seen all of these. We have four wonderful daughters-in-law and 12 loveable grandchildren between the ages of 10 and 3 years. We come together at every opportunity to celebrate life, love, and family.

This August, we will celebrate the 45th anniversary of Ian’s kidney transplant! We remain ever grateful to the family who made that life-changing decision for Ian as they were losing their loved one. But what a wonderful way for that individual’s memory to live on! We will never know who donated the kidney, or anything about the deceased individual, but he/she remains close to our hearts.

We are ever grateful to the medical teams at University Hospital, particularly those in nephrology, who have overseen Ian’s healthcare for the past 45 years.

The gift of life through organ donation is a gift that you may never experience personally, but by taking the time to fill out your organ donation card, you may change the life of another who is suffering from organ failure. Talk to your family members and friends; encourage them to do the same.

Bernardine Ketelaars


Return to Stories