Kristen (Cashubec) Armitage of Round Lake is going public about the importance of living kidney donation for people like her. The 35-year-old mom of two needs a kidney transplant.

Round Lake – Kristen Armitage is a 35-year-old wife and mom of two who is in end stage kidney failure and is hoping by telling her story people will consider the living kidney donor program to help her and countless others waiting for a transplant.

“One thing I have learned is I am not the only one in our community in this position,”  she said, following her decision to go public encouraging people to consider the living kidney donor program. “I have connected with people who have the same thing I have now. I now know four.”

Kristen, who grew up in the Valley, is the daughter of Eugene and Cathy Cashubec of Killaloe. She is the oldest of their five children and the only one diagnosed with kidney disease, for there is no history of this in the family. She still lives in the community she called home as a child and is raising her family in Round Lake with her husband, Andrew Armitage.

She was in her 20s when she was diagnosed with a form of chronic kidney disease, called IgA Nephropathy. This is a condition in which antibodies build up in the kidneys and cause damage and other problems resulting in them not being able to filter the blood. She was first aware something was wrong after suffering from recurring kidney infections or UTIs. 

“They would prescribe me antibiotics and send me home, but it kept coming back,” she said.

A doctor in Barry’s Bay noticed abnormalities in her kidney function and she was referred to the renal clinic in Renfrew. Following a biopsy, she was diagnosed.

“Up until this point it has not been too much of an impact,” she said. “I’m followed routinely with the renal clinic. We have tried treatments to slow the progression.”

In fact, she was doing so well she was given the go-ahead to have a second child. Her children are five and almost eight now.

However, her disease kept progressing. In January she was told she was considered end stage kidney failure.
“I kind of knew it was coming,” she said.

While in some patients the disease progresses slowly, in her case it has not. There is no reason she has this disease or any reason why it has progressed as rapidly as it has. It is not genetic or caused by any specific thing.

“My doctors chalked it up to bad luck,” she said. “The genetics are not well studied so it is really a one off.”

At her most recent appointment she was told it was time to prep for dialysis treatments while simultaneously starting the work up and testing required to get set up for a transplant.

“Dialysis is, hopefully, our short term treatment option right now with the long-term goal to receive a kidney transplant,” she said.

However, the wait for a kidney can be many years, so Kristen decided to reach out to family, friends and through social media, letting people know she needs a new kidney.

“A kidney from a living donor would be optimal, because they usually function immediately, have a high success rate — 90 to 95 percent — and last on average 15 to 20 years,” she said.

“Anyone can be a donor, although there are a few factors to consider, but there is a fantastic team at The Ottawa Hospital to help with this process. The Living Kidney Donor Program is a division of the Renal Transplant Program that educates, tests, matches and supports anyone who is interested in becoming a kidney donor,” she explained.

Her siblings are being tested to see if they are potential donors, but that is not a guarantee. Knowing there are so many people looking for kidneys, including four who have her same disease, makes her keenly aware of how great the need is, so the more people who are willing to consider kidney donation the better. If someone steps forward and they are not a match for her, perhaps they can help someone else, she said.

Meanwhile, she is preparing for at-home dialysis. She will be trained to do it and it can be done overnight while she is sleeping. For a busy mom with a full-time job – she works at CNL through a hybrid model which allows her to work from home as well — doing dialysis at night enables her to keep her current schedule of home, work and extra-curriculars with her children.

She expressed her thanks to anyone who is considering donating a kidney and helping someone who desperately needs one.
“It is huge. It is a major decision,” she said. “This is major surgery.”

For the donor, the body can survive with one kidney and the remaining kidney enlarges to take on the additional load.

Many people who know Kristen were unaware she had kidney disease and going public has been something uncharacteristic for her, but terribly important.

“It feels really strange to now have to broadcast this news and cross my fingers that I find a match. But I guess it’s where I’m at, and I have to just go with it,” she said when first ongoing public on social media.

Since then, she has been contacted by many people and raised awareness, so that has been a positive experience and she hopes speaking to the Leader will raise more awareness and encourage people to consider kidney donation.

Kidney awareness month is coming up in March and going public for both the Armitage and Cashubec families is a way of raising awareness and hoping people will seriously consider kidney donation.

If anyone is interested in contacting the Living Kidney Donor Program in Ottawa for more information or to start the process to see if they are a match their contact information is:

Living Kidney Donor Program, Renal Transplant Program, 613-738-8400 x82778.