Jacke Palmer (second from right), soon to undergo a kidney transplant, is shown with her donor and “friend for life,” Joyce Brown. Jacke’s husband, Gavin, is on the left; Joyce’s husband, Paul, is on the right.

Cross-border connection leads to life-saving kidney donor match

March 9th, 2017

A St. Paul’s transplant patient from New Westminster, BC, met her kidney donor at a parade in Portland, Oregon

“Dr. Gill told me that when it came to finding a kidney donor, I had to be my own advocate,” says St. Paul’s kidney patient Jacke Palmer, speaking of Dr. John Gill, a clinician scientist in the Department of Nephrology at St. Paul’s and one of Jacke’s doctors.

“I needed to make an effort to find a donor on my own,” says Jacke, “because otherwise I was facing a six-year transplant waiting list for my blood type, and I had maybe a year left with my original kidneys. So I talked to everybody and anybody who would listen.”

Jacke was deeply moved when more than 20 friends and family members came forward, willing to donate a kidney.

“It’s unbelievable,” she says. “Five were my family, but the rest, they were my friends. And all of these people came forward—for me.”

Jacke also mentions an unexpected benefit that came about as a result of her friends undergoing the required medical tests.

“Several of them had conditions they were not aware of until these tests revealed it,” says Jacke. “One was diagnosed with a serious autoimmune disease that she is now being treated for. Another discovered he was diabetic. Another found out that she had hepatitis, which she traced back to a tattoo! They are all being treated now so I guess these are examples of good karma.”

Everyone loves a parade

How Jacke came to meet her kidney donor is an interesting story unto itself…

A resident of New Westminster, BC, Jacke met her donor, Joyce, thanks to her support of the Hyack Festival Association, which organizes family oriented events, festivals and parades that attract people from throughout the Pacific Northwest, from both Canada and the US.

“Everyone is very supportive and the festival circuit is very reciprocal,” says Jacke, “so we all visit each other’s cities and towns throughout BC, Oregon and Washington. Thanks to these festivals, my husband Gavin and I have developed many great friendships over the years.”

In June, 2016, Jacke and Gavin were at the Portland Festival, in Oregon, catching up with old friends when Jacke recognized Joyce.

“I had never met Joyce,” says Jacke, “but I had become great friends with her husband, Paul, over the years organizing and attending various festivals. So I introduced myself and we had this wonderful conversation that night along with others at our table.”

Jacke was approached by Paul and Joyce the next morning.

“Paul said to me, ‘What’s this, I hear you’re sick.’ I said, ‘Yes, I need a kidney—do you have a spare one?’ Paul laughed and said, ‘As a matter of fact, I do, and I’ll go and get tested to see if you can have it.’ And Joyce said, ‘I’ll get tested, too.’”

This was how Jacke found her life-saving organ donor.

Paul, it was determined, was not a match—but Joyce was.

“Joyce was an absolutely perfect match,” says Jacke. “So perfect we could have been twins.”

Joyce is a nurse in Everett, Washington, who works at a treatment centre that deals with addiction. She has also been a long time blood donor to her local hospital’s neonatal maternity ward.

“I’m blessed,” says Jacke, “and in Joyce, I truly have a friend for life.”

Jacke’s doctors are now monitoring her condition and hope she may be able to keep her original kidneys for another year, as even a kidney from a living donor has a shelf life, so the longer a patient’s original kidneys function, the better.

As a friend of St. Paul’s, you can support life-saving kidney care with a generous gift today.


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