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'An unbelievable gift': Coquitlam SAR member receives kidney donation from wife of fellow volunteer

Last Updated May 30, 2020 at 4:59 pm PDT

Michael Coyle and Jody (Courtesy Facebook/CoquitlamSAR)

Michael Coyle Coyle has polycystic kidney disease, which causes gradual kidney failure

When his doctor told him to start asking for donors he asked family, firends, and colleagues with Coquitlam SAR

On Friday, Coyle underwent a kidney transplant after Jody--the wife of a colleague--agreed to be a donor

COQUITLAM (NEWS 1130) — After Michael Coyle’s doctor told him to start asking family and friends to get tested to be a potential kidney donor he heard from dozens of people who wanted to help.

But he didn’t hear from Jody.

“Jody, she didn’t call me. She didn’t want to get my hopes up. So she didn’t tell me anything,” Coyle tells NEWS 1130.

Coyle has worked with Coquitlam Search and Rescue for the past 20 years. Jody is married to Don, another SAR member.

In November, while driving home from Squamish, Coyle got a phone call and learned that Jody had decided to donate her kidney.

“I was overcome with emotion on the Sea to Sky highway and I had to pull out and just kind of get out of the car and walk around a little bit. It’s one thing to know that people are being tested but it’s another thing for someone to have made the decision and be cleared to go,” he explains.

Looking back, Coyle thinks the idea may have first crossed Jody’s mind a few years ago.

“I was sitting with her at the Christmas party and had been talking about things and it had come up about my kidney disorder and I’d mentioned to both her and Don that this was in the cards for me, that kidney failure was on the horizon and I got the sense that she was quite touched.”

‘You better start asking around’

Coyle has polycystic kidney disease, which causes gradual kidney failure.

Last year, as he and his doctor watched his kidney function decline, it became time to start looking for potential donors.

“My doctor said, ‘You better start asking around with your friends and family to see if you can get a live donor because that’s better than being put on dialysis and going on a list,'” Coyle says, explaining the transplant list is for people whose kidneys have already failed.

“That’s how I ended up asking friends and family and the search and rescue community to see if they were a match.”

‘I was on pins and needles there for a bit’

When COVID-19 hit, Coyle received a phone call telling him his surgery would likely be postponed.

A few weeks ago he got a call confirming a date, but he wasn’t entirely convinced the surgery would go-ahead.

“I was on pins and needles there for a bit cause every time they’d call me from the transplant clinic I’d be like, Uh-oh are they cancelling it?”

The surgery was scheduled for May 28, and then pushed to the 29.

The pair were in the same hospital at the same time but had to keep their distance.

“We’re not allowed to be too close. We can talk to each other across the hall I’ve been told,” Coyle tells NEWS 1130.

One day after surgery, Coyle’s voice is a bit hoarse but he is feeling well.

“This is going to make a huge difference. I already feel better, I feel sharper. I’m still tired from the surgery and there’s quite a bit of pain but it’s already making a difference.”

“It’s an unbelievable gift, it’s hard to state even how big a deal this is.”

‘There’s a lot of people like me’

His recovery will last about six weeks, after which he can start to return to work as a media liaison with Coquitlam SAR.

Having undergone a transplant will permanently affect his immune system.

“Especially in the context of COVID-19 there’s lots of people like me who have just had transplants or are going into transplants and we’re all going to be immunocompromised for the rest of our lives. That’s one thing to keep in mind when people are telling you what to do about handling COVID-19,” he says.

“I’m going to look — hopefully, perfectly healthy walking down the street but for the foreseeable future I’ll be wearing a mask in public to protect myself and I just want people to be aware that there’s a lot of people like me that need to continue to take harsher precautions than the average member of the public might need to.”