The Kidney Foundation of Canada

Kidney Stories

Finding a path to motherhood on dialysis

 

Heather and Justin St. Pierre with their son

  When Heather St. Pierre found out she was pregnant, she was thrilled. She and her husband, Justin, had settled in his home town of Belle River, near Windsor.  She had just been offered a teaching position at a local school. After more than a year of trying to start a family, everything was falling into place.

    It was during some routine prenatal blood work, that Heather came to realize something was wrong.  Doctors were puzzled by results showing low levels of hemoglobin in her blood.  Those levels continued to fall, to the point where she needed a blood transfusion.  Heather was diagnosed with CKD – glomerulonephritis. She was 29, and her kidneys were failing.

  “It was a shock to everyone,” she remembers. “In the beginning it was 'why me, why now'? I live a healthy life, I eat very well. I don’t have any of the risk factors.”

   There were also serious implications for her pregnancy.  Very suddenly the family life she had envisioned, that she was so close to achieving, felt very far away.  “When you hear that it can be taken from you, that you may not have a baby; there would be times I would sit on the couch and break down in tears thinking I am not strong enough to do this.”

   Her doctors decided on an intense program of dialysis that was working for patients at a health centre in Toronto: six hours a day, six days a week.  They believed it would give the baby the best chance for normal development.  There was no guarantee the treatment would work – in fact the odds were against it. But the chance of success was enough to give Heather hope: “Not trying to continue with the pregnancy was never an option for us.”

   After months of tests and ultrasounds, baby Lucas was born in April, 2013 - a healthy 6lbs 8 oz. He is more than six months old now, and thriving. Heather continues dialysis treatments, now three times a week, and is hoping for a transplant.

 When Heather took part in her first Kidney Walk, two weeks after being diagnosed, it gave her hope during a really difficult time.  This year, after her son was born, the Walk felt more like a celebration for little Lucas. “It is amazing how much has changed in a year. The Walk truly felt like a milestone.”

   There are still many challenges, and it is hard to leave Lucas to go for dialysis treatments. But Heather feels incredibly lucky to have a healthy child, and so much support -- from her family, the health community, and the Kidney Foundation.  She follows the KFOC on Facebook and Twitter, reading stories about kidney patients, and new research. “These have been inspirational and eye-opening,” she says, “and have also helped my friends and family learn more about CKD.”   

 

By Heidi Westfield; Photo Credit: Danielle Tremblay Photography