Today, Andrew Burke feels privileged to support Dr. David Landsberg, who treated him over a decade ago for a rare kidney disease
Andrew Burke first came to Canada from the UK in 2001, at the age of 21, on a one-year work visa. He “fell in love with Canada” and decided he wanted to live here. Today, he co-owns a successful business that sells natural products for pain, stress and anxiety.
Andrew has had his share of all three.
In 2004 Andrew flew back to England to visit family. Arriving in England he found he was tired and out of breath. He saw a doctor there who told him that it was likely just a minor infection.
Feeling bloated at the end of his trip, Andrew stepped on a scale to find he had gained 18 lbs. in two weeks. He did not realize his body was now retaining fluids due a serious problem with his kidney. On his flight back to Canada, the fluid went into Andrew’s legs, bringing great pain and causing his legs to double in size.
All of this at 30,000 feet over the Atlantic.
Once he was back in Vancouver, Andrew went immediately to a walk-in clinic. Within minutes, he was in an ambulance headed to St. Paul’s.
At St. Paul’s, it took Dr. David Landsberg some time to diagnose Andrew. Dr. Landsberg, Division Head for the St. Paul’s Renal Program, eventually performed a kidney biopsy. The result showed a specific type of Nephrotic Syndrome that is more common in children and considered rare in adults.
Dr. Landsberg himself had suffered from a similar condition in childhood.
“I can’t say it was the same for sure,” says Dr. Landsberg today, “because this was the early 1960s. I was seven years old. This was a time before kidney biopsies, which is the key diagnostic we use for such a condition today. So with no biopsy, I will never be one-hundred percent sure of the condition I had.”
There was no question, however, that Dr. Landsberg felt a connection to the young man he was treating.
“I felt a connection with Andrew because of our shared experience,” he says. “I felt the pain of the swelling that this condition can cause; and I know what the side effects of treatment are like, as they involve large amounts of steroids.”
Yet thanks to medical advancement, Andrew was able to be given additional medicines that meant a lesser dosage of steroids, meaning fewer side effects and a more permanent response to treatment.
“The treatment we gave Andrew wasn’t invented until the 1990s,” Dr. Landsberg points out. “Even kidney as medical specialty, this did not come about until the late 1960s-early 70s. My childhood condition predated all of this. It really is amazing to look back over these eras and to realize the advances made.”
Andrew says he will never forget the care that Dr. Landsberg gave him, and his presence during those difficult times.
Overall, it took three and a half years of treatment, with numerous perceived successes only to be followed by relapses as Dr. Landsberg worked with Andrew to find the correct treatment regimen. And a relapse was intense. Andrew says his weight would balloon from 200 lbs. to 260 lbs.
“At that time,” says Andrew, “I wasn’t doing very well. I was young, I didn’t have much money, I wasn’t able to work, I didn’t have any family here. I was very much alone and Dr. Landsberg knew this and he went above and beyond for me. He was more than just a doctor. He became a very special and significant presence in my life. At the end of the day, I feel that I am here because of him.”
With all they’d been through, earlier this year Andrew felt it a great privilege to make a $10,000 gift to support Dr. Landsberg’s research. He also became a monthly donor to St. Paul’s.
“I wanted to give monthly because it represents the long process Dr. Landsberg and I went through together, it was not some one-off thing, so I like the idea that every month I am helping this incredible work being done at St. Paul’s, and I hope I am able to do this for many years to come.”
March is Kidney Health Month and Andrew says if his story and support of St. Paul’s inspires others, “That would be fantastic, all for the better.” To support the kidney research and care at St. Paul’s, make your helping gift today.