Saving a life, giving of himself
Photo by J.P. Antonacci, Brant News
Sarah Steinacher pictured with her father, Rev. Dr. Mark Steinacher, at their Brantford home. Knowing his daughter’s best chance at living a full life is to have a kidney transplant, Mark offered to be her donor.
At 23, Sarah Steinacher was a vibrant young woman with a promising career ahead of her.
Living in Toronto, researching and pitching stories for successful television programs like Survive This, Storm Planets, William Shatner’s Weird or What and Ghost Hunters, the Brantford woman was living her dream.
At the same time, she was attending the University of Toronto and writing science and technology articles for the university paper. Between archery, socializing, academia and work, it was a full life.
It all came to a screeching halt when Steinacher ended up in a coma for more than three weeks after suffering a series of seizures. At 27, she had stage-four kidney failure.
Now 29, Steinacher is one of about 80 patients of the Brantford General Hospital SC Johnson Wax Dialysis Clinic at end stage renal
failure. She spends four hours every other night on dialysis.
“Besides the social disruption, it does give me so much more energy,” Steinacher said of the treatments. “I can get out again and socialize again. I always have my mom or my sister or my best friend here with me and we joke around and have fun.”
But her once glowing complexion has become sallow, her body is thin and frail. Kidney disease has changed Steinacher’s life completely.
“When you see that happening in front of you it rips your heart out,” her father, Rev. Dr. Mark Steinacher said. “She was a vibrant young lady. She’s a great kid and was getting along with her career in television and film.”
Knowing his daughter’s best chance at living a full life is to have a kidney transplant, Mark offered to be her donor.
“In ways it is a little daunting, but how many times have we used the expression ‘I would give my right hand’ or ‘I would stand in front of a bus to protect my child?’” he said. “I don’t have to stand in front of a bus, I just have to give my kidney.”
Rigorous testing has shown Mark to be a perfect match. One more test – a CT scan – will be done on April 22 to ensure his kidney is the right size and doesn’t contain too many blood vessels.
If all is good, father and daughter will head into the operating rooms of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton within three to six months. Mark will have the smaller of his two kidneys removed during a three to four-hour surgery.
He will likely retain about 75 per cent of his organ function following surgery. The kidney will expand and take on more function, possibly up to 100 per cent.
Steinacher will remain in the hospital for about seven days and should see 55 to 58 per cent organ function following surgery. Her kidney will also expand to take on more function.
“A lot of people don’t realize you can live with only one kidney and live a full life,” Steinacher said. “Donors often show an increased sense of well-being and better self-confidence because they have done something to help someone else.”
Steinacher hopes to one day return to her old life.
“I miss just basically being able to do what I wanted to do whenever I wanted,” she said. “Now everything has to be very structured and takes a lot of pre-planning. The first thing I will do is go to Toronto and visit my friends.”
If the final test shows that Mark’s kidney is too big, Steinacher will receive a
different kidney and someone else will receive Mark’s. They are okay with that.
“We just want to know that people are going to be healthy out of this,” Mark said. “The decision was straightforward – my daughter needs a kidney. When you see your daughter wasting away and it’s a matter of I can give a kidney and she will be fine, there is nothing else to think about.”