The Kidney Foundation of Canada

Kidney Stories

Gabor Brach

In Memory

Gabe was born in Hungary on December 18th, 1954 in an era and country that could not support the illness he was diagnosed with at the age of five months — polycystic kidney disease — due to underdeveloped muscles in the ureter. His left kidney was removed and consequently he developed a life-threatening infection, caused by a proteus bacteria that responded only to very expensive and not readily accessible medication. His parents were told not to expect him to live past his 11th birthday.  This is when the quest to save his life began.

With no possible future in Hungary regarding treatment (due to lack of research, resources and funds) Gabe’s parents made the difficult decision to escape from Hungary in 1956 in hope of a better life for their child. The family chose to immigrate to Canada as it was the best place to help him. Gabe spent four months at the Toronto Sick Kids Hospital, where doctors preformed the second major operation of his life: they attached his ureter to a colostomy bag, hence setting his life on a new course.

Gabe was now able to do the same things as other children – swimming, skating, skiing and hockey.  He was taught to explore his surroundings and although he was shy and introverted due to his illness, he had great personal strength and developed a huge curiosity for life. In high school he met his life-long group of friends, kids who allowed Gabe to slowly open up and feel accepted regardless of his illness. His sense of self continued to grow, he discovered his love of computer science and decided to embark on this as a career.  Hope was deeply rooted in his soul and he always dreamt of a life bigger than the illness.  

Towards the end of high school his only remaining kidney (working at 8% capacity) gave out. His father donated his kidney only to have tragedy strike a few days later: an infection brought into the operating room caused Gabe to hemorrhage and loose his perfect match. Gabe had no choice but to start dialysis and chose to do so at home, to continue with his university education.  The next four years were extremely difficult but he graduated from university. This was a major turning point in his life; he decided he didn’t want pity and began to rebuild his life by adjusting to a new lifestyle – a larger than life attitude. Hope and a fierce determination were always present, with him focusing now on getting another transplant.

He got his second chance in 1979 with the selfless donation of a smaller and not as well matched kidney that gave him one and a half good years off of dialysis. Back on dialysis again after losing the second kidney, Gabe adjusted by building relationships with his dialysis unit at the Ottawa General Hospital. It became his second home and everyone loved him and did everything they could to accommodate his schedule requests (because of his busy life!).  These were good steady years for him.

With no family of his own, Gabe moved to the West Coast to enjoy the better weather and west coast lifestyle. He almost lost his life on the journey and was hospitalized in Edmonton. Somehow surviving this episode, he was placed on the transplant list under the care of Dr. Keown in Vancouver. Hope was the future with a kidney and that dream came true on June 8th, 1995 when Gabe received his third kidney transplant.  While in the midst of the transplant, he had his first heart attack. Brought back to life – he stunned his doctor with his fighting spirit – Gabe recovered after a touch-and–go period of two weeks.  

His kidney and heart gave him 14 years, however he made adjustments to his lifestyle along the way, accepting that this illness was merciless and that if he was going to survive he would need to conserve his energy to fight it. He went from full-time to part-time work, he looked after himself through diet and exercise and he devoted himself to his family, friends, hobbies and community service.

Gabe died peacefully on October 24th, 2009. His life was a miracle and one that we hope will be inspirational to others facing similar situations.  Gabe’s mantra throughout his life was “Keep on Trucking” and that is what he did until the end!

You can make a donation to The Kidney Foundation of Canada in memory of Gabe Brach by clicking on this link.