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'Share your spare and be a hero': New Brunswick man searches for kidney donor

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On the back of George Leblanc’s black BMW is a bright white decal that asks a unique question.

“It says ‘Kidney Needed’ and it has my type, type O positive, with the phone number, and it says ‘share your spare and be a hero,’” he said.

Leblanc has been waiting for a new kidney for about five years now.

He was on the waitlist in Ontario for three years before moving to New Brunswick and starting dialysis about two years ago.

“I’ve been a diabetic for over 40 years and that’s what does most of the damage to your kidneys,” he said.

“When I moved here from Ontario I was at, I think, 14 per cent (of the kidneys) working, and when it gets below 10, then you have to go on dialysis.”

He says the waitlist for a deceased donor donation is usually 3-5 years when you’re on dialysis.

Currently, he is on a waitlist in Halifax for a transplant and now he also has the ad on the back of his car — an idea that came from his older sister, who saw a similar ad work out west.

“I’ve gotten about 15 to 20 responses from it already,” said Leblanc.

In just six months, he has had people pull him over to ask questions, people take photos at stoplights and in parking lots, and people call in to see if they could be a match.

“It really feels good, really feels good,” he said.

“You should never give up on humanity sometimes when people do things right out of the blue.”

After the first call, Leblanc directs them to the hospital and then the process is completely out of his hands.

However, he believes his car sign is already making a difference in the Maritimes.

“I heard just recently that two patients received kidneys just recently and they reported that when they went to the hospital and they mentioned that they had seen the ad on the back of a car in this area,” he said.

There’s no way of knowing if they were referring to Leblanc’s car, but he hopes his car will generate attention and help other people in the same situation as well.

“When they start the testing, if I’m not a match to them, because there’s more than just the blood type, there’s all the tissues that have to match — so if I’m not a match, I hope that they keep going and then end up giving a kidney to someone else,” he said.

“I feel good about that, if that’s off my car. That’s a good feeling.”

The latest data regarding kidney failure and transplants in Canada looks at 2022.

“The latest CORR report, which is the Canadian Organ Replacement Register, states that 3,777 Canadians are waiting for a solid organ transplant as of December 31, 2022,” explained Rosanna Mitch, the Atlantic branch senior programs coordinator for the Kidney Foundation of Canada.

“Of these, 73 per cent of that number were waiting for a kidney, 13 per cent for a liver, six per cent for a lung transplant and three per cent for both a heart and pancreas and two per cent waiting for a combination of organs.”

There are two options when it comes to getting a kidney transplant – a living donor and a deceased donor.

“The medium wait time for an adult dialysis patient to receive a deceased donor kidney improved by 17 per cent between 2013 and 2022 — from 4.1 years down to 3.5 years,” said Mitchell.

“The living donor wait time increased by nine per cent over the last decade, from 339 days in 2013 to 371 days in 2022.”

As far as donations go, she says that rates have been returning to pre-pandemic levels and nearly 3,000 solid organ transplants took place in Canada in 2022.

“In 2022, there were 827 deceased donors, the highest number over the last decade,” she said.

“This represents a 12 per cent increase compared with 2021 which saw 736 and a 50 per cent increase compared with 2013, which saw 553 transplants.”

Looking at living donor donations, Mitchell said that went up 18 per cent when comparing it to the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

“People used to think that it never effects somebody you know, but just in Moncton here there’s over 200 of us here that are on dialysis,” said Leblanc.

The Kidney Foundation of Canada has an “Are You At Risk” quiz on their website to help raise awareness and give people more information.

The biggest impact for Leblanc personally has been the lack of travel.

Currently he does dialysis for four hours a day, three times a week and can’t go more than two days without receiving treatment.

“What it is, they drain the blood out of you, and they clean it through filters and then put it back into you, so it’s sort of like a big filter and that’s what your kidney is – a filter,” he said.

To contact the number on the back of Leblanc's car, people can reach out to 506-269-2218.

For now, he’s waiting and planning his next chapter that will see him getting back to one of his favourite hobbies — travelling.

“There’ll be a big party,” he joked.

“I’ll start travelling, because like I said, there’s a lot of places I’d like to go to. I always wanted to go to Vegas, like to go see that and maybe Europe or go on a cruise.”

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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