A Perfect Match

Rick and Suzanne Craven are a perfect match in more ways than one. Not only did they recently celebrate their 44th wedding anniversary, but as fate and good fortune would have it, this couple was so perfectly matched that Suzanne was able to donate one of her kidneys to Rick when his began to fail.

Rick has been living with kidney disease for most of his adult life. Fortunately, he was under the care of two of Hamilton’s most renowned nephrologists. Rick started out as a patient of Dr. Kinsey Smith, and later following his first physician’s retirement, Rick came under the care of Dr. Peter Margetts, a leading kidney specialist and researcher at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

“I can’t say enough about the care I received from Dr. Margetts,” recounts Rick. “He was always sharing the latest in kidney research with me and with Suzanne. At each appointment, he would look at my lab results and creatinine levels, adjusting my medications here and there. I credit his keen attention to every detail as one of the reasons the progression of my kidney disease was so slow and contained. His impeccable care enabled me to live a relatively normal life for many, many years.”

But in 2019, Rick began to experience a more rapid decline in his kidney function. His doctors advised that there were only two options: dialysis or a kidney transplant. Rick had a friend on dialysis so he asked for a tour of his local dialysis facility to better understand his treatment regime and routine. While Rick and Suzanne were prepared for the reality that Rick may one day need dialysis, Suzanne says that before they went down that road, she felt compelled to get tested to see if she could donate one of her kidneys to her husband.

Over the next 19 months, Suzanne underwent a series of scans, blood work, testing and consultations, as the team at St. Joe’s worked diligently and methodically to ensure that Suzanne’s desire to give a kidney to her husband had the very best possible chance of success.

“I know it sounds like a lot to go through but, actually, I was very grateful,” says Suzanne. “Very few people have the opportunity to receive such a thorough work up. I was checked out from head to toe by the very best doctors, and not only did they confirm that I was in good health, but at the end of it all, we received the news that I was an excellent candidate for a kidney donor, and a near perfect match for Rick.”

When asked if she ever had any doubts about moving forward, Suzanne says, “Not even for a moment. Who wouldn’t do this for the person they love? The vow that we took was to be there for one another in sickness and in health. And if I could help Rick by donating one of my kidneys…if it meant we’d have more time together, then I knew I wanted to do that for him, for us and for our family.”

Rick and Suzanne walked into the Hospital together on March 10, 2021 amidst the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, prayed together, and made their way to their respective pre-operative areas.

Just four days later, Suzanne was back home, and Rick followed her after about seven days in recovery at St. Joe’s. Dear friends moved in for three weeks post-transplant to help them both and, today, Suzanne is still fit as a fiddle while Rick feels like he has a new lease on life.

“We’re both doing great,” says Rick. “Suzanne bounced back really quickly. For me, it was a bit of a longer road taking anti-rejection medications and attending follow-up appointments to make sure everything was working as it should be. But today, I feel just about normal. I’m beyond grateful to Suzanne. Thank you doesn’t seem like enough when someone has quite literally extended your life by giving you a part of them. We had no idea that her kidney donation would work, but Suzanne insisted I was worth the try!”

“Rick’s right about the numbers,” says Dr. Margetts. “Siblings have a 25 per cent chance of being a perfect donor match. But when we’re looking at two people with no genetic relation at all, that statistic is much lower, which makes the Cravens’ story even more remarkable.”

Rick and Suzanne Craven stand on either side of Dr. Peter Margetts. Rick stands on the left with Suzanne on the right. They both wear green t-shirts. Rick's shirt says, "Kidney Recipient: I run on spare parts." Suzanne's shirt says, "Kidney Donor: Because who wouldn't want a piece of this." Dr. Margetts wears dark blue pants and a light pink button up shirt with a navy blue lanyard around his neck.
Rick and Suzanne Craven with Dr. Peter Margetts.

In appreciation of the care they received at St. Joe’s, throughout Rick’s journey with kidney disease and following the transplant procedure, Rick and Suzanne made a $75,000 gift of securities to St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation. Their donation will be used to help fund research conducted by Dr. Margetts and his team into the causes, treatments and pathology of chronic kidney disease and dysfunction.

Suzanne is happy to be an advocate for organ donation following her experience. “You really can change someone’s life. In my case, it was the life of my soulmate,” she adds.

This story was originally published in our 2021-22 Donor Impact Report. Click here to read the full report and discover other inspiring stories from our supporters.

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