Organ / Tissue Donation and Transplantation

People call Sherry Provis a hero, but she insists it’s no big deal. She’d do it again if she could. However, to her family – particularly her father – donating a kidney was a big deal.

In 2007 Sherry’s father, Peter Carruthers, was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. He was suffering with intense headaches and swelling in his legs so severe that by the end of the day he could barely walk. Doctors told Peter the only solution was a kidney transplant.

He began dialysis and, with no matches for a transplant within his own family, joined a wait list for a transplant. He continued treating his diabetes and after a year underwent triple-bypass heart surgery.

While Peter prepared for a transplant, his family considered the newly launched Living Donor Paired Exchange (LDPE) donation program. Simply put, the program registers incompatible donor/recipient pairs into a database to be matched with other incompatible pairs to create a chance for the two recipients to receive kidneys from each other’s living donor.

Sherry’s mom was not cleared to become a kidney donor, so Sherry stepped up. She was impressed with how the LDPE program worked.

“I have three sisters,” says Sherry, “and I’m the oldest. We had a discussion, so I went through the testing process first. If it hadn’t worked out for me, one of my sisters would have tried next.”

In October 2010 they got the phone call: Peter and Sherry were to become part of a six-person chain of kidney exchange at the end of November. While Sherry flew 2,000 km to Halifax to donate her kidney to one recipient, Peter received his kidney from another donor in Toronto, less than an hour from their home north east of the city.

A supportive family and employer made recovery easy for Sherry. She was back to work in just over a month. Peter’s recovery took longer, but three years later he is steadily improving and very happy to be free of his dialysis machine.

For Sherry, the most memorable part of the process was when they found out her dad did not reject the kidney and was going to be okay.

A modern-day hero for sure, but Sherry is guarded.

“I’m not looking for acknowledgement,” she emphasizes. “I did it without hesitation because it was my dad. What’s amazing is that I helped two people at the same time.”

Photography by Lorella Zanetti