Meet Women Touched by Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease affects approximately 195 million women worldwide and it is currently the eighth leading cause of death in women, with close to 600,000 deaths each year. 

This March 8,  World Kidney Day falls on International Women's Day giving our kidney community a chance to highlight the importance of women's kidney health.

Let us reflect on the many women across Canada who have been touched by kidney disease this Kidney Health Month by meeting a few women from our community. 

Meet Kim

Meet Suzana

 Glomerulonephritis and Pregnancy-Ontario Renal Network

Women, kidney disease, and pregnancy with Dr. Michelle Hladunewich 

Kim’s journey to motherhood on dialysis

From her home in Woodstock, Ont., Kim reflects on her ups and downs with kidney disease, what she calls “her crazy ride”. The 42-year-old was one of the first patients at the London Health Sciences Centre in southwestern Ontario to get pregnant while on dialysis. She delivered a healthy baby boy in March, 2011. Evin, now in grade one, has grown into an active, and sometimes mischievous child. He is also quick to help his mother when she needs support.

“Evin has a kind heart,” says Kim. “If I am not feeling well he comes up and rubs my hair and says, ‘Mom, are you okay?’”

Evin’s “miracle” birth was a bright spot on an otherwise difficult road with kidney disease. Evin came into her life at a time when she had pretty much given up on getting pregnant. Kim has gone through a lot since she was first diagnosed with IgA Nephropathy more than fifteen years ago.Kim and her family

“It was scary because I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t know what it meant,” she recalls. Her kidneys were already in very poor shape when she received the diagnosis. She had elevated blood pressure, high protein levels, and suffered from fatigue. Kim’s failing health meant she couldn’t continue to work. Soon after starting dialysis her husband at the time abandoned their marriage – unable to cope, she believes, with how kidney disease was changing their lives.

“It was a tough struggle,” she recalls. “I had lost my job, my husband left, and I was getting a tube put in my stomach.”

Those first few years on dialysis were difficult, punctuated by a failed kidney transplant in 2005. Around that time she met Christopher, whom she married in 2006. Kim enrolled in a clinical trial that put her on more intense, six-days-a-week dialysis. Doctors have found dialyzing more frequently can help improve a patient’s health, to the point where women with kidney failure can support a pregnancy.

It was during pre-op tests for another kidney transplant that Kim discovered she was pregnant. “I was in hospital, and the doctor said ‘Congratulations, you are going to be a mom!’” Kim chose to forgo the transplant, to have a child. Her health was closely monitored, and she remained on bedrest for the last weeks of the pregnancy until her son was born.

After a successful transplant in 2015, Kim is now off dialysis. There are still days, though, when it is hard to stay positive. Her new family – Evin, step-daughter Ivy, and Christopher – make it easier to get through the difficult times.

Exercise helps Suzana stay healthy, and maintain a positive attitude

Suzana likes to stay active. She works out five days a week with spin classes, high-intensity fitness sessions, weights, and yoga. As long as her health in stable, nothing will stop her from getting to the gym. Not the weather, not her dialysis machine, nor the catheter in her neck. The 48-year-old Barrie resident knows nutrition and exercise are important to stay healthy and feel good about the way she looks.

“It is something I have done all my life,” Suzana says, on her exercise regime. “It is good for the body, good for the soul, and it keeps you busy,” Suzana says. “I am getting older, and I want to stay healthy to hopefully down the road avoid complications if I get a transplant.”

Suzana lost her kidney function as a young girl, after a severe bout of strep throat. She has undergone two kidney transplants and is now on dialysis. She has tried dialyzing in different ways – hospital hemodialysis during the day, peritoneal dialysis at home. In her experience, she has found that home hemodialysis, seven nights a week, works best. The machine she hooks herself up to every night gives her the energy to move forward with her day.

“There are times when I have a love-hate relationship with the machine,” Suzana acknowledges. “But I know what the machine does. It gives me strength, it gives me tomorrow, it gives me hope. Just because the machine is there, it doesn’t mean your life has to stop.”

There were times over the years when Suzana’s health was not so stable. She remembers days on dialysis when the slightest movement was taxing, and getting out of bed impossible. At one point, she was so weak she had trouble holding a pen properly.

Despite these setbacks, she has soldiered on and found a way to regain her health and motivation. She advises other kidney patients not to give up. It is important to learn about different medications and options available and push for the best healthcare solutions possible.

“If I can do it, anybody can do it. Life is so precious. When I wake up in the morning and I see snow, rain, sleet, sunrise sunsets I am happy. My eyes are making memories and these beautiful pictures. I don’t think of myself as sick.”


How has kidney disease touched your life?

Ontario Branch - 1599 Hurontario Street, Suite 201, Mississauga, ON L5G 4S1 - Tel.: (905) 278-3003 / 1-800-387-4474
Charitable Registration Number: 107567398RR0001