A Quesnel youth is fighting for her life, and needs help. Sometimes, someone in pain needs to dig deep into their resilience and find their own inner strength, to get through a problem, but for Alyssa Olson, it will take all that and someone to donate a kidney.
This is a stark eventuality that has been almost 10 years coming. Olson, her supporters, and her medical team have been trying to avoid the need for organ donation, but it is now the only option.
“I was only 17 years old when I was diagnosed with Lupus Nephritis (an auto-immune disorder that attacks the kidneys) in 2014,” she told The Observer. “At the young age of only 26 I now need a kidney transplant.”
Her original diagnosis took about six months and a lot of blood work. Eventually, it all led to a focus on her kidneys.
“In 2014 I had my first kidney biopsy,” she said. “I had gone into kidney failure every year for five years, being hospitalized for seven to 10 days each time. Treatments included: chemo, steroids, immune-suppressants, water pills, blood pressure meds, anti-rejection meds, blood transfusions, albumin (blood protein) transfusions.”
It was partially successful. From 2019-23, the former Correlieu Secondary and Quesnel Junior School student was in remission and felt health and hope, but this year came her body’s brutal retaliation.
“2023, I got really sick,” she said, listing, “migraine that lasted months, puking sick, lethargic, water retention, confusion. When I went to the hospital I was in end-stage kidney failure. I was sent to Prince George hospital four days later, where I started dialysis. I had a small response to it but nothing like what the doctors were hoping for. My kidney function only came up a few points.”
Biopsy No. 4 back in 2020 showed that her kidneys were already comprised of 47 per cent scar tissue. Biopsy No. 5 showed more scarring, and that was an indication to the medical team that “there was very little chance my kidneys will come back, meaning it’s time for a transplant.”
She will remain on dialysis until she can find a donor, living or deceased. The more people can go through the process of signing up as organ donors, so when death comes, those vital transferrable parts are given to people in critical need, the better the chances for people like Olson.
Kidneys, however, can be donated by someone living.
“My chances are a lot greater with a living donor, less chance of rejection, and if I can find a living donor the transplant can happen as soon as I find a match,” she said.
“If I can’t find a living donor and have to go with a deceased donor there is a two- to four-year wait list.”
Information on how to become a donor can be found at the website for Canadian Blood Services at www.blood.ca/organ-tissues.
Click the Menu tab, find the Organ Tissue tab, click on Living Donor Program, click British Columbia, then follow the link to email St. Paul’s Hospital and say you would like to get tested to become a donor for Alyssa Olson.