Kidney donation allows Burnaby mom to take care of dying son
From left, Robin Gage, son Bryan Gage and Lucy Ryan. In the photo, Ryan is visiting Robin and Bryan Gage in the hospital prior to donating a kidney to Robin Gage. Robin Gage sought a live donor so she could continue to care for Bryan, who was dying. Ryan read Robin Gage's story in The Province in Dec. 2015 and donated one of her kidneys. As a result, Robin Gage was able to care for Bryan until his death seven months later. (HANDOUT)
Robin Gage's son Bryan lived for seven months after the Burnaby mom got a life-saving kidney transplant. The extra time together was a gift, made possible by a stranger.
In December of 2015, Gage sent a Christmas letter to family and friends titled "Robin needs a kidney, and she really hates to ask for help."
Struggling with kidney failure and facing a 10-year wait for a transplant, Gage hoped to find a live donor so she could continue to care for her 28-year-old son Bryan, who was dying from organ failure caused by a rare genetic disease. Without a transplant, she feared she wouldn't be able to fulfil his last wish: To die at home, surrounded by his family.
Desperate, Gage agreed to share her story in the pages of The Province.
Reading the heartbreaking Christmas plea, Vancouver triathlete Lucy Ryan felt she was meant to help.
One of several people who volunteered, Ryan had three months of testing, which determined she was a perfect match. On April 18, 2016, she donated one of her kidneys.
"What Lucy did for me allowed me to take care of Bryan the way he wanted," said Gage in an interview Friday.
"I can't thank her enough. Words are not enough. This story has to be all about Lucy."
But for Ryan, giving a kidney to a complete stranger was "not really a big deal."
"I don't mean that to sound flippant," she said. "I am healthy and strong, and I'm so thankful for that. I wanted to share that gift."
Ryan spent two nights in the hospital. After the first night, she asked doctors if she could return home. Less than a month later, she ran a half marathon and competed in a half Ironman triathlon.
On Sunday, she'll participate in the Vancouver Kidney Walk alongside Gage. The annual event, which happens in cities across the country, is put on by Kidney Foundation of Canada.
Gage and Bryan had 7½ months together after her transplant.
Gage was able to provide palliative care for her son at home, rather than his spending his last months in-and-out of hospital on dialysis. She slept beside him so he woke each morning holding his mom's hand.
Bryan died early last December with his mom and older brother, Bren, at his bedside.
"Lucy did that for us," said Gage. "She let me take care of Bryan the way he wanted."
Bryan's wish to die at home came after his dad's death in 2010. Gage's husband of 35 years, Paul, died at home after contracting the H1N1 flu. He was undergoing treatment for leukemia at the time.
Ryan's gift has also given Gage and Bren, who was born with the same immune-system deficiency as his brother, a new lease on life.
This summer, Gage swam every day. She started jogging. In July, she and Bren hiked the Grouse Grind for the first time.
"Walking up there, I felt like I was walking up to heaven to visit Bryan and my husband," she said.
As she stood on the top of Grouse Mountain, Gage called Ryan to thank her once again.
To learn more about organ donation, visit https://register.transplant.bc.ca/verification.