A few months post-kidney transplant, Melinda Naugler, a seasoned musician, knows there's inspiration to be found on her journey battling kidney disease and raising awareness about the value of organ donation.
"I'm sure there's a song in there somewhere," the 52-year-old Bridgewater woman said with a laugh.
Kidney disease is prevalent in Naugler's family, impacting most of her siblings. At one point, a sibling donated a kidney to another, and her mother, more than 20 years ago, underwent transplant surgery.
Kidneys, of which most people have two, help the body make red blood cells and regulate blood pressure, the Kidney Foundation of Canada indicates on its website. The disease damages the organ's ability to eliminate wastes and excess fluids, according to the the website.
While she remained high energy, Naugler, who worked as a detailer for a recreational vehicle business, exhibited some of the typical signs of kidney issues such as high blood pressure and an odd taste in her mouth. She continued working and doing her usual activities even when health care professionals were recommending dialysis (not listening to the medical advice is something Naugler, in retrospect, doesn't recommend).
Dialysis became a three-year routine for Naugler at Queens General Hospital in Liverpool. Three times a week for three hours at a time, the treatment did what her kidneys couldn't; it cleaned her blood and removed excess fluid. During those long hours, she'd create and colour uplifting messages to stay positive during the process.
Although an infection temporarily derailed her time on the transplant list in April 2019, she remained in the waiting game for a new organ.
The call she'd been waiting for came in the middle of the night in October 2019 but she kept hanging up on the voice on the other end thinking it was a prank. Finally, she realized it was no joke and made her way to the QEII Health Sciences Centre.
Several hours later following a six-hour surgery, Naugler had a new left kidney.
"The surgeon was awesome," Naugler told LighthouseNOW. "I was told by another doctor that the [surgeon's] work was phenomenal." She said another patient in the unit received a right kidney from the same donor.
After five days of treatment and observation, Naugler was back home. While she still remains subject to anti-rejection drugs and other medications, Naugler's days of dialysis are done and her recovery is going well. She'll be regularly monitored in the years ahead.
Naugler's confident those doodles of encouragement helped her through the surgery. "Don't give up your miracle is on its way" was the last message she wrote during dialysis before her procedure.
And organ donation is huge issue, she said.
"To think that someone I didn't even know changed my life like that is quite incredible," she said. "Being a donor is so important and to give those waiting [some] hope."
Parliamentary question period notes provided to the federal Minister of Health indicated nearly 3,000 lifesaving transplants were performed in Canada in 2018. The information, provided by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, said 4,492 patients are on organ wait lists, and 232 patients died while waiting for a transplant. Over 40,000 Canadians were living with end-stage kidney disease.
Naugler, who plays acoustic and bass guitar, plans to host a music event sometime in the months ahead to thank her supporters and celebrate her transplant.