Kidney transplant a life-changing experience for elderly patient and family

Mr. Feldman
Morris Feldman is happy he doesn't need dialysis any longer

On a Sunday in July Marla Feldman was driving home to Montreal from her cottage when she received the phone call she thought would never come. “It was my sisters Rachel and Eleasa,” Feldman recalls. “They told me:  ‘Meet us at the hospital right now, dad has a kidney!’ I just started screaming.” 

Morris Feldman, a 77-year old father of five, was born with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a genetic disorder in which cysts form in the kidneys. Seven years ago he had heart surgery and his kidney function started to deteriorate. Four years later he was put on the kidney transplant waiting list and he started peritoneal dialysis, a procedure carried out at home through the stomach.

Even though they knew the average wait time for a kidney in Quebec is three years, Mr. Feldman’s family never thought he would get a new kidney at his age. After she received that “unbelievable” phone call, Marla rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital. “I was screaming and waving, ‘Where’s the kidney?’ I went from ‘This will never happen’ to ‘My father is in a hospital gown and ready to go!’”

‘A new lease on life’

Feldman family
Marla Feldman (2nd front, left to right) brought the family together to celebrate the birthday of her father Morris (4th left to right).

The surgery lasted six hours. Mr. Feldman is now doing well, happy to be free from dialysis. “At Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, my dad came to my house and for the first time in years he didn’t have to rush home for dialysis. We had a wonderful dinner together,” Marla says.

Throughout those tumultuous first hours and following days and weeks, the Feldman family had one vital source of strength. “Right from the start, the care and support we got from every single person in the hospital was fantastic. They took care of him, but also dealt with us,” she says. “I’ve been baking cakes and bringing bagels to the nurses and attendants every time I go to the Royal Vic. I want to show them how much I appreciate them taking care of my father.”

For Marla, the whole experience was especially challenging.  She, too, has PKD and may one day need a kidney transplant. “I don’t let it show, but it’s been quite a journey. If this ever happens to me, I hope I have the same care that may father had. That makes me feel better.”

Marla Feldman and her family would like to thank transplant surgeon Dr. George Zogopoulos, nephrologists Dr. Mark Lipman and Dr. Dana Baron, urologist Dr. Mostafa Elhilali, transplant coordinator Cheryl Desmond, residents Dr. Shaifali Sandel and Dr. Alquallaf Ahmed, all the nurses and staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital. “We owe my father’s life to all these amazing people,” she says.

The transplantation unit at the RVH: a place for strong connections

Health professionals working at the Transplant Department in the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) feel a deep attachment to their unit. This multidisciplinary team handles the pre-evaluation, surgery and follow-up of transplant patients.

“We work well together and share our expertise,” says Transplant Coordinator Cheryl Desmond. “The floor is like a dynamic family.” 

The complexity of a transplant operation requires detailed coordination, adds nephrologist Dr. Mark Lipman. “There are more than a dozen experienced and dedicated professionals involved. We are all filled with great joy when the transplanted kidney kicks in. It’s a rewarding experience.” 

For kidney transplant patients, the change is transformative, says Dr. Lipman. “It frees them from the burden of dialysis and dramatically increases their quality of life,” he says. “They feel healthier and more energetic.”

While all patients celebrate a second chance at life, many also feel conflicting emotions, such as grief or guilt. “They are distressed with what the donor’s family is going through. So we offer them support. Patients feel safe here,” says Desmond. “They know they’re being well cared for.”