Debbie Onishenko has been diabetic since she was 13 years old, which affected her kidneys, causing her to require dialysis. After years of waiting, she finally got a perfect kidney match.
“I am so elated and excited. I am both in shock and blown away,” she said.
The Saskatoon woman’s red car had drawn eyes thanks to a bold attempt to get the public’s attention. On the rear window of the vehicle, the phrase “Kidney Needed Type O, Share Your Spare” was displayed.
“There are so many waiting on the donor’s list that I thought I will take matters into my own hands,” she said.
“I was cautiously hopeful as I didn’t know how many would look at the sign and call.”
The 62-year-old had hoped that it would bring awareness to donating and it indeed did. Among the many calls she received, five got tested for blood work but only two went through till the final process.
She is thankful to Brent Kruger, the successful match, who called her on Aug. 22, 2022, after Onishenko had shared her story with many news media outlets, including CBC.
“I had come across Debbie’s story through Google News feed. I check it every night before bed and what stood out was her blood type as it matched mine. It was a lightbulb moment,” Kruger, 42, said.
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In the following weeks, Kruger said he went through extensive blood work, ultrasounds, CT scans, X-rays, cross-match testing and between the start of September and middle of January, he gave “40 vials of blood” to ascertain if he was a match.
Kruger said when he was informed by the donor co-ordinator that “he was the most recent eligible kidney donor in Saskatchewan” and a perfect match for Onishenko, he immediately “hung up” the call in shock and moments later called them back requesting if he can personally inform her.
“Roses are red, violets are blue, I have a kidney and I will give it to you” are the exact words Kruger said to inform her.
“When Brent called me with the fantastic news that he was a perfect match, it was an amazing moment,” Onishenko said.
“I just cried and his wife was crying in the background. We all were so excited. I kept saying, ‘thank you, God’. It was the best miracle in the whole world.”
Presently, the duo are awaiting medical procedures to get them to the next steps for transplant but are hoping to get the surgery done at the end of this month or next.
“If Brent hadn’t called, I would have gone on dialysis, which is hard on the system. It keeps you alive but doesn’t make your quality of life any better,” Onishenko said.
When the two met for the first time in person at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon, they instantly connected over the name of their pets.
“Debbie mentioned her cat’s name was Hermonie, and my wife is a diehard Harry Potter fan, got tattoos and everything, and that’s when we thought we are more connected than we thought,” Kruger said.
“The personal satisfaction of meeting the recipient in person is something I will cherish forever. I am super happy that I met Debbie.”
Onishenko said she would not remove the sticker of her car until the time she is back home from the hospital after the surgery.
“There will be a recovery period after it for us but it’s going to be great,” she said.
“My biggest hope is that people realize that they can help other people while they are alive. Please put your name on the donor’s list when you are deceased but there’s so much you can do while still alive.”