‘The backbone, the strength’

A patient’s journey from dialysis at St. Joseph’s to transplant at St. Michael’s

By Ana Gajic

Lauren Garraway completed the CN Tower Edge Walk after her transplant. (Photo courtesy of Lauren Garraway)

April 18, 2019 – As Lauren Garraway and her mother Prema prepared for their surgeries, Lauren gave her mom a thumbs-up and said: “We’re going to come out of this laughing.”

Lauren was preparing to receive a kidney, and Prema was getting ready to donate one of hers. Though Prema and Lauren were not a match, the two were part of the National Kidney Paired Donation program. Prema would donate her kidney to another kidney patient in need, and in turn, Lauren would receive one from a stranger.

Then 32, Lauren had been on dialysis for 15 months after an unexpected kidney failure diagnosis.

Within 48 hours of diagnosis, she picked which type of dialysis to go on. She learned she would eventually need a transplant.

“I was overwhelmed,” she said. “In some ways, it was better that it all happened quickly – I had no time to harp over it.”

Prema remembers feeling terrified of losing her daughter, who never faltered throughout the journey.

“There is no one stronger than Lauren,” she said. “She’s the backbone, the strength.”

Lauren and her family found themselves visiting the dialysis unit at St. Joseph’s Health Centre monthly. She had picked home dialysis and the St. Joseph’s unit provided support and checked in regularly.

Lauren Garraway’s mom, Prema, helped give her the gift of life through the National Kidney Paired Donation Program. (Photo courtesy of Prema Garraway)

“We develop close relationships with our patients – similar to a family,” said Jennifer Arnaiz, Lauren’s home dialysis nurse and transplant coordinator at the St. Joseph’s dialysis unit. “Our program provides primary nursing care, which facilitates continuity and consistency of care for our patients.”

Lauren’s transplant care took place at St. Michael’s, where the team found a transplant option that would work for her family.

“We always felt like the teams always had our backs,” Prema said.

Prema and Lauren received their surgeries within a few days of each other, and then recovered in matching hammocks in the backyard over the summer.

Now, the two are sharing their story in celebration of 50 years of the Kidney Transplant program at St. Michael’s. They hope their experience helps others who need a transplant, or those considering giving the gift of life.

“We have a happy ending and we need to let people know this and feel our joy,” Prema said. “Every day we get to celebrate Lauren’s life.”