TONEY RIVER — Jami Fay has lived most of her adult life, thanks to someone else. Or someone else’s kidneys to be exact.
Fay, who grew up in Pictou County and has lived the past 24 years in Liverpool, N.S., is gaining back her strength and her life since undergoing her third kidney transplant surgery in January.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Fay said Saturday while visiting her sister Heather Fiske at their mother Sally Fiske’s home in Toney River.
Fay was 20 in 1982 when both of her kidneys began malfunctioning at the same time and she needed her first organ transplant.
“I just had something unfortunate happen to me,” she said. “I was healthy and attending the Nova Scotia Community College in Stellarton.”
She was on dialysis for two months before her sister Bonnie donated one of her kidneys.
“Bonnie was a perfect match,” Fay said. “Her kidney lasted 13 years. Then it stopped working and I went on dialysis for two years and two months.”
Fay’s second donation was a cadaver kidney in 1998 and it lasted 16 years before she had to go back on dialysis for three years and eight months. She said she felt fortunate that there was a dialysis unit in Liverpool.
The regimen consisted of three hours of dialysis three days a week, but the sessions increased in time as she began to weaken before getting her third kidney in January.
“The surgeon was quite pleased,” she said. “Hopefully, it will last longer than the other two.”
While Fay recovers, she said her positive attitude has helped sustain her.
“Things happen when they’re not supposed to, but you have to stay positive,” she said. “It’s part of your life. You have to work everything about your life around it.”
Undergoing kidney dialysis and a third transplant also meant Fay could no longer work as a planning technician for the Municipality of the District of Chester, a job she commuted to from Liverpool and which she thoroughly enjoyed.
“I will not take a job that far away again,” she said. “I just want to get my strength back.”
Certain restrictions accompany Fay’s recovery. She could not drive for six weeks after the January transplant and cannot leave the country for six months.
“This was the first long trip,” she said, referring to her journey to Toney River to see family.
What has happened to Fay has affected others. Her sisters, Heather and Bonnie, have daughters — both of them were tested but were not a match for Fay.
Heather’s daughter, Claudia, lives in Ontario and has joined a match program there.
Jami Fay stands with her sister Heather Fiske at the home of their mother Sally Fiske in Toney River as they celebrate Easter together. (Goodwin photo)