With her shoes broken in and laminated pictures of her son adhered to her backpack, an Okotoks organ donor is marching 100K in a fight against kidney disease this weekend.
Kristy Allary is among hundreds of walkers who met at the Millarville Racetrack early this morning before making their way to Black Diamond and up the Friendship Trail to Turner Valley’s Royalite Millennium Park for lunch to kick off the three-day Kidney March. Participants head west to Kananaskis country after lunch.
“A little bit of pain and blisters on my feet is nothing compared to what they go through on a daily basis,” said Allary, speaking of her 15-year-old son Michael and others who suffer from kidney disease.
Allary donated her kidney to Michael after he was diagnosed with kidney disease.
“I was looking for the one more thing that I could do to help him,” she said. “As a mom you’re trying to make it better for them and you can’t.”
Allary’s husband Trevor participated in the Kidney March two previous years. This year it was her turn.
“I thought he was crazy walking 37K per day but the bottom line is it’s nothing compared to what these people go through,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to do it but the fundraising was always a little bit intimidating for me.”
After a friend lost her daughter to kidney disease last spring, it solidified the decision for Allary.
“For me it was the fact that I lost somebody close to us this year battling kidney disease and the fact that that could still be Michael,” she said. “There is still not the best treatments out there and you could still lose people.”
After being diagnosed with kidney disease at age four months, Michael had to wait until he was two years old to receive his mom’s kidney.
Allard said the wait was brutal.
“He was on treatments before the transplant – eight-hour IV infusion therapy,” recalls Allary. “His kidney failed and he was on dialysis for 10 months before the transplant. That was rough.”
The day after the transplant, Michael was rushed to ICU and put on life support after developing fluid on his lungs.
“He spent five to six days completely lifeless,” she said. “Transplant life is not easy.”
Even now Michael is admitted to the hospital once or twice a year for some type of side effect, said Allary.
“There’s a lot of battles they continue to fight afterwards,” she said. “You’re living with anti-rejection meds your whole life. If I can do this one thing to raise money to go to research or create something even better out there, I will.”
Inspired by the nurses who helped keep Michael comfortable throughout his lifelong ordeal, Allary became a nurse five years ago.
In May, she began training for the Kidney March, walking up to 20K a day every weekend.
Kidney March participants head to the Elbow Valley Visitors Information Centre Saturday and then into Calgary Sunday, ending with a closing ceremony at Winsport Canada Olympic Park at 2:30 p.m.
Along the way, they receive support at 10 pit stops with music, water, electrolyte drinks, snacks, portable toilets and a cheering crew. Participants will sleep in pods and enjoy hot meals, showers, massages and medical support throughout the weekend.
According to the Kidney March website, one in 10 Canadians have kidney disease, yet most people are unaware until it’s too late. Kidney disease is irreversible and the number of cases is expected to double in the next decade.
Joyce Van Deurzen, executive director of the Kidney Foundation of Canada’s southern Alberta and Saskatchewan branch, said participants invest a lot of time, energy and training into the event.
“It’s a commitment that asks a lot of people,” she said. “It calls upon their full potential and capacity to take this on. These are not athletes, they are everyday people.”
What brings participants back year after year is the camaraderie they experience in those three days, said Van Deurzen.
“The experience is so powerful and so meaningful that very few people do the Kidney March only once,” she said. “It really requires people to support each other along the way and really be there for each other and there’s a power that comes with that.”
With the cause close to so many people’s hearts, Van Deurzen said it’s no wonder the event exceeded the Kidney Foundation’s $1 million fundraising goal, raising just over that amount.
“When people are faced with a life changing disease that has impacted their lives in some way they want to do something about it,” she said. “They meet all these incredible people and get they connected to a powerful cause. People that have been through something like this together form a bond, especially with three days together.”