Abbotsford kidney donor pays it forward

After husband gets a kidney, Lois Wilson donates to sister-in-law

Lois Wilson donated her kidney to 'pay it forward' after her husband received a kidney donation.

Lois Wilson donated her kidney to 'pay it forward' after her husband received a kidney donation.

Since making international headlines while seeking a kidney donation for her husband, much of Lois Wilson’s life revolves around increasing awareness of the need for transplants.

But since donating her own kidney, life hasn’t changed too much. Wilson – who had the operation almost three years ago at 73 – is still active, healthy, and able to do what she did before.

“I’ve been chainsawing, sweeping, and all the stuff you do around here – hauling wood,” she said with a laugh, looking out at her large yard in Abbotsford.

In 2008, Wilson’s husband needed a kidney transplant, but she was not a match to donate to him. She posted an ad on Craigslist, saying she would swap her healthy kidney in exchange for one for her husband.

The request, which was pulled off the site due to concerns about issues of organs being sold online, managed to catch the attention of national media outlets in the U.S. and in Canada – and, most importantly, a donor. A stranger came forward and offered to donate his kidney.

Her sister-in-law suffers from the same hereditary condition as her husband – polycystic kidney disease.

“A total stranger gave a kidney to my husband. The least I could do to pay it forward was to give to my sister-in-law.”

Wilson’s two daughters and two grandchildren also have the disease, and she is hopeful for improvements in addressing kidney disease in the future – adding that it is as important to focus on prevention of kidney disease as it is to encourage donations.

While her husband’s donor remains anonymous to the public, they are still in touch with him at Christmas and special occasions. For Wilson, being able to donate – and see her sister-in-law independent of a dialysis machine – brings her much joy.

Wilson volunteers in a dialysis unit and says some people are reluctant to ask their families about donating.

“You don’t just go up to someone and say,  ‘Can I have your kidney?’ ” she said, adding it may not occur to others they are able donate to their loved ones.

There are about 120 people in Abbotsford who need life-saving kidney transplants, according to the Kidney Foundation.

Wilson is hoping that people sign up to be a registered donor – to donate their organs in case of death – as well as learn about the possibilities for living donation.

“I’m on a crusade to increase public awareness.”

For more information on kidney donations, or how to register as a donor, visit www.kidney.ca/BCHome.