Share Your Spare
with Lindsay Murray

In Canada, at any given time, there are approximately 4,500 people waiting for organ transplants. 76% of them are waiting for a kidney. Lindsay Murray is the Production Manager at Anointment. For the last six years, she has produced most of the skin care products on our website and in stores. She is the mother of four children, including twins. She’s a triathlete and a runner, an amazing cook and a lover of good food. She was not happy that they served her baked beans the day after surgery!

Lindsay is committed to quietly supporting people in our community through meal delivery, a listening ear, or a running buddy. She really embodies what it means to build community. In January of 2019, Lindsay became a living kidney donor providing a kidney to her father. I was able to follow her journey on the periphery, getting updates on the testing required and progress as she moved toward a scheduled surgery date. Prior to watching this process, I personally had never really considered living organ donation because honestly, I was scared for my own loss of quality of life and given that in Canada, we average only 21 donors for every million people, I suspect this is a common fear.

Lindsay and I work together every day and I was lucky to watch this journey as it unfolded. I invited Lindsay here to share her story about how confident she was in her intuition that all would go well, the donation process, and how her life perspective has changed. Keep in mind, we work together every single day and it’s really clear from the way we talk to each other that we spend a lot of time together!

Lindsay: OK! A few years ago, over a Skype call, my Dad and his wife Marian let us know that years of living with high blood pressure and diabetes had taken a toll on his kidneys and he was diagnosed with late stage kidney disease and we had the alarming news that this disease was going to kill him one way or another. He was looking at a kidney donation sometime down the road. When I heard this, I was of course devastated and my first thought was to immediately volunteer my kidney, that the words flew out of my mouth and I didn’t even think about it: I would do it! I would happily do it when the time came.

April: Because I know you really well, I’m not surprised to hear that! But…how does one overcome the fear of “oh my gosh, if I give my kidney and something goes wrong with me and I compromise my own quality of life or I get sick later on…” How do you reconcile that fear with the desire to help?

Lindsay: I honestly never had those fears. Even now, 9.5 months later, I still don’t think I have those fears. I know that my kidney health is largely in my own hands. It’s about lifestyle choices, good health, reducing stress, anxiety, drink enough fluids, rest, exercise and eat well.  I feel like all of the power to take care of myself is all up to me. It never, ever entered my head that I would one day compromise my health and my quality of life.

April: Even the fear of something going wrong in surgery? Or anything like that?

Lindsay: Yes! I definitely had fears about the surgery itself. I’ve never had major surgery. I’ve had four children and I’ve had them naturally and I managed to avoid a c-section with my twins. I’ve never had major surgery, so that one I was really concerned about. Any time I’m in hospital, I try to get out of hospital as fast as I can. The fear of being under general anesthesia and not knowing what was going to happen and would I wake up? That was probably the only anxiety and fear I had.

One of the ways I managed that was to have a Goodbye Kidney party. I didn’t tell anyone that yes, it was a Goodbye Kidney party, and we were going to have a really great time, but what I didn’t tell people is that I was really afraid I was going to die. So, I treated it like a living wake.

April: Ok….I was at that party!

Lindsay: Yes, you were!

April: I was not aware!

Lindsay: I didn’t want to tell people that. I treated it like a living wake and thought “OK! There are all the people I care about the most, and they’re here and celebrating me, we’re having a great time and should something happen, I’ve been surrounded by love and care and support and it’ll be OK.”

April: OK, now I see it in a completely different light!

Lindsay: I know.

April: But it was a really fun evening!

Lindsay: It was. There was a lot of kidney related trivia, kidney bean decorations.

April: It was a great idea!

Lindsay: I was really nervous and even going into the surgery, what I didn’t tell my Dad even, I had to tell my husband Jeff, was that: 1.) If I die under the knife, please tell the surgeon: “have at ‘er! Go ahead and take anything of value out of me because I’m not going to need it and 2.) You have to promise me you won’t tell my Dad that I died. Just give it to him and explain afterwards because you can’t take it out once it’s in! He would want to, but I know ultimately, he wouldn’t. He would have accepted the kidney, but he did make it clear that if I had died, he would never accept it. So, I had to circumvent him and say “I don’t’ care! I don’t care what he says, if I die, he has to take it because I died for this!”

Luckily, none of that happened, but I did have to make all those contingency plans and I had to talk to my husband “Ok, if I die, I want you to have an adequate period of mourning for me since we’ve been married for 16 years. I need you to mourn for at least a year! After that, have at ‘er. Make good choices.”

April: So you’re laughing about this now because none of these things have come to fruition, but that sounds kind of scary!

Lindsay: It is! It was. You’re told during the process that your odds of dying are more related to being under general anesthesia and complications from the general anesthesia than from complications from the surgery. How many millions of people go under general anesthesia every day? I knew the odds were really low and I had been under general anesthesia before for a D&C I had back in 2008 and I knew I responded pretty well to it. I felt pretty confident I wasn’t going to die, but I had to make some plans just in case I did.

April: You just received the National Donor Recognition Medal at a ceremony in Saint John, New Brunswick about a week ago. Were you expecting to be celebrated after the fact?

Lindsay: I was not, no. I received a call from my nurse saying that this was going to happen and could I send a picture of my Dad and I for a PowerPoint presentation they were going to have. I really thought it was for living donors in New Brunswick of which, in my head, couldn’t be very many. So, I thought it would be a handful of us that were going to receive a really nice little medal, and a coffee and brownie reception. I really didn’t expect it to be a big deal, but when I went with my family, there were hundreds of people at this event! Then I realized, very quickly, that this was more about families in New Brunswick that have chosen to honour their loved ones wishes and pass along their organs and tissue at the time of their neurological death and then it became this whole other event. A really moving, very sad and uplifting event of people who’ve had to make the really agonizing choices about what to do with their loved ones remains and how they can honour that legacy and keep life going for other people who have lowered quality of life. It ended up becoming this really moving event; seeing some of the recipients was really something. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Seeing children up on the Power Point presentation and realizing that of course children die. The weight and the gravity of that decision for parents…I can’t imagine. It was a really difficult event for me because in a way, it made me feel like I wasn’t anywhere in the same league as these people. In a way, it made me feel kind of selfish; that I got to save my Dad, and just my Dad. I know that there are ripple effects to that but these families have had to make really agonizing decisions and they may never know the legacy of that thoughtfulness. It gives a different meaning to their grief and suffering. It was a really special event. Not at all what I thought was going to happen!

April: Certainly, watching you go through this process, because we’ve been working together for almost six years, this was a long process. Tests, repeating tests, psychological evaluations and medical appointments.

Lindsay: Yes.

April: I have signed my donor card should that event come when I’m able to donate I’m very happy to do so, but donating as a live person never really entered my mind as a possibility because you know what happens when the blood donor clinic comes to town! That’s beyond terrifying for me! The fear of what could happen to my quality of life is so crippling that I can’t even imagine. Or I couldn’t even imagine offering an organ while still alive, but having seen you come through this process, and it was an arduous process!

Lindsay: Absolutely

April: You are still running; you are still really busy. Of course, there was a recovery period and there’s an ongoing recovery period, but it hasn’t slowed you down. It’s a lot less scary on the flip side then it seemed going into it! Even for me, it has changed my perspective, 180 degrees. It’s not as terrifying as I thought it could be.

Lindsay: Me too, me too. They tell you that you’ll bounce back and your previous quality of life will be restored, but there’s always a doubt in your mind…but what if it doesn’t? You have to accept the risks going into it, that you may not bounce back. You may have lifetime complications, again, the odds are slim, but it could happen and there could be these new events. And there has been, there have been some little things that I’ve noticed now: I’m a slower runner, I need a bit more rest, I’m cold a lot. I’m cold, almost all the time and I never was. I have to be really on top of my health. There are some lingering things, but none of that is preventing me from moving forward. It’s changing or altering how I move forward, but not to the point that I have to stop everything completely. To me, that’s an acceptable sacrifice.

April: And I have to say, your kidney was so flippin’ amazing that your Dad went parasailing this week!

Lindsay: I know! Swimming! He hasn’t been swimming in 3 years.

April: That’s true, he wasn’t swimming because of dialysis.

Lindsay: He was on peritoneal dialysis. Seeing him live his best life, really embrace a new life, has been the best gift I could have ever received. I firmly believe that you’re either called to donate, or you’re not, but neither one of those decisions is to be lauded more than the other. We all give, what we can, every day. If you feel called to be a living donor, amazing. If you’re feeling called to donate financially, or volunteer your time to a cause, all of that is also amazing. While I think living donation is a real gift, and wonderful, I shirk at the idea it’s better than other ways of giving because you’re either called to do it or you’re not and that’s OK. It’s perfectly OK not to be a living donor.

April: What do you mean by “called” to do it?

Lindsay: I think that calling is that intuitive sense is the gut response. When I heard the news, it was an immediate yes and for some other people it was an immediate no and I think you have to listen to that. Sometimes your gut knows something, right? That immediate no might be because your body is telling you: “You know what? Maybe down the road, we might need that kidney, so please don’t give it away” I think you have to listen to that, honour that, and not go against what your intuition is telling you. My intuition was telling me, right from the get go, that this was going to be perfectly fine, everything would be OK, the kidney would be received beautifully, there would be no complications and we need to do this. So, I listened to it. Every part of the process was smooth and complication free and I was out of the hospital in record breaking time.

April: It was 48 hours? In and out? I’ve been in longer having a baby!

Lindsay: Even the nephrologist came by and said “Wait! I understand you’re leaving in the morning. You just gave a kidney yesterday! Why are you leaving?” and I said “Well, because you’re telling me I’m good to go and he checked my chart and said ‘Huh. You really are good to go! Do you want to stay another day?’ and I said no, I’d really rather be home and resting” I did choose to rest another day in Halifax before making the trip back to Sackville.

April: It was an orchestrated affair to get you to Halifax, to make sure your 4 kids were cared for and to have convalescent space nearby while your Dad was still in hospital. You stayed with friends?

Lindsay: Yes, they were amazing! They would pack a little lunch for my husband and the  four kids and it meant he could spend the day around Halifax. A friend of mine in Sackville had contacted all the museums to see if they could donate passes to him and a couple of them did. That was a lovely help financially because the other thing that you have to accept is the financial hardship risk. Not only are you missing work for all of these appointments, but you’re also off work during your convalescence. My accommodation would be covered by the province but not my family’s and not my family’s activities – meals, hanging out, etc. They did visit me every day, but for the rest of the time, my husband was a real trooper and took them swimming and just take them places to keep them busy so that they didn’t keep asking “where’s Mom?” Every day was really long. On the Tuesday, my husband had to wait in this tiny family-patient waiting room, awaiting news of the surgery and our four kids did not enjoy hanging out in a windowless space. All he wanted was news from me and all he wanted was to see me but how does he go and see me when he has four kids? It was a lot to orchestrate when you have kids and surgery.

April: So, it really was a whole family event and a community event.

Lindsay: Absolutely.

April:   You had a lot of support once you came home.

Lindsay: Absolutely. A tremendous amount of support, overwhelming. Even leading up to the surgery, not only did we have the Goodbye Kidney party, but the amount of well wishes, thoughts and prayers, cards, gifts, you name it. It was an overwhelming amount of support and afterwards there were meal deliveries from our church at St. Andrew’s, there were people that stopped by, there were people that helped take care of the kids, it was really something. It was probably the most amount of support I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot of kids! It was a lot of support. When I was driving to Halifax and I’m reading the comments on my Facebook posts and I’m reading the things people are writing about me and I honestly thought: “If I did die, I’ve done everything I could in this life”.  Look at all the beautiful things people are saying about me; that is a gift that I’m not sure many people get to have.

April: That’s a fair point.

Lindsay: To know what people think about you…they were really poignant comments that people were making about me.

April: I’ll tell you: the whole town was holding its collective breath the day you and your Dad were in surgery! I must have been in town that day and everywhere I went people were asking: “Have you heard news yet? Is there news? Is everything OK?” The town was really holding its breath for you two. 

Lindsay: When do you ever get that in your life? That is, honestly, the best gift I have ever received in my entire life. So, if this was it, this was the end, I’m going to die very happily. I’ve tried to live a pretty good life, I’ve had children, I’ve had a happy marriage, I’ve tried to give of myself, so if this is really the end, I’m really OK with it. It’s a strange feeling to feel like anything after this, any other lovely experiences I get to have in my life is the cherry on the top.

April: I guess if you look fear straight in the eye and say “Too bad! I’m doing it anyway!” It really does change the perspective.

Lindsay: It really does put everything into perspective; nothing is insurmountable anymore. It also brought me to this whole different place of body acceptance. When I came out of surgery, they kept telling me what an amazing kidney it was and how amazingly I bounced back and how amazing everything was and I kept looking down at my body and kept thinking: “Really? It’s amazing? All I can see is the weight I’ve gained, the sagging, the stretch marks. I can see the toll that my life has had on my body. To hear the medical side of it saying no, it’s amazing! Then you start to look at your body and think “wait a minute, maybe my body IS amazing! Maybe all of these years I’ve spent disparaging my body…and in reality, holy smokes, it’s done its job and why have I not been more grateful for it?” Why are we as people, and especially as women, why are we not way more grateful for what our body does? So, it also led to this newfound gift of being not only being less fearful in my life, but also being way more thankful for what my body can do and less about what it looks like. The function is amazing. Maybe not the form, but the function is amazing!

April: The form is amazing, too!

Lindsay: It gets the job done!

April: The form is amazing, too. Period and end of sentence! We’re going to leave it like that.

Lindsay:  The other thing that people don’t appreciate or think about, is that during this donation process, I had to miss a fair amount of work. My kidney donor nurse does an amazing job at combining appointments, so if you’re going to lose a day of work it won’t just be for one test, it will be a handful of them, which I really appreciated. The other thing that doesn’t get acknowledged enough is your workplace. Your workplace has to be OK with being flexible about you missing so much time and also the convalescence. I have to give a huge shout out to Anointment. Even though April knew this was coming and she had a year to prepare for it, her and our coworker Heather did an amazing job looking at projections and what would need to be produced, by me, for when I was gone. They were able to order all of the ingredients and all of the stock that we would need for to produce it all. So, if I was gone for 2-4 weeks, there wouldn’t be a hiccup in sending out orders. That also meant a huge financial commitment from Anointment, that they had to make this huge upfront cost so I could make it all upfront. This was different from how we normally run our inventory system. It dawned on me that this isn’t just a sacrifice that I had to make, but a sacrifice Anointment had to make, selflessly and without any acknowledgement from anybody that April had to take this hit so that everything could move smoothly within the operation. I really appreciated it, that it was done so quietly and subtly, but it dawned on me after the surgery that “wait a minute! Anointment needs a big thank you for what they had to do to juggle and shift to make all of this happen.”  So, thank you!

April: It’s a team effort. Like anything, everything works better when the community pulls together to do it. It was important to you. I remember the day I met your Dad; when you mentioned that Skype call, your Dad was not living in New Brunswick at the time. The day that he moved to New Brunswick, he was incredibly ill.

Lindsay: To see him go from barely walking and so, so sick to parasailing and swimming! Just to see them live their best life and to realize there’s so much more ahead for him.

April: He gave a really moving toast at the Goodbye Kidney party as well; I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room that day. You could see, and maybe that’s what makes the difference, but you could see the before and the potential after when it’s someone you know. Which is maybe the difference, between people who choose to whether to donate or not. It’s a lot harder to wrap your head around the fact someone out there needs it, but all those people have families, loved ones, communities, hobbies and people they love and who love them. Like I said, it really changed my perspective and brought it close to home.

Lindsay: It’s a vulnerable thing and to have people you care about support you in that vulnerability and to be vulnerable with you was really lovely. It’s a tremendous gift from several different angles from seeing my Dad live his best life, seeing the community engagement, the community support, the amount of people that are saying they’ve talked to their families about being organ donors at the time of their death.

April: The news picked it up. CBC news did a story.

Lindsay: We were. We did a Father’s Day story during the work up and then Tori Weldon and the CBC team came a week after donation. Oh my gosh, I had to put on my flounciest dress; I was still so bloated from the laparoscopic surgery! We did a little follow up and that was lovely. Again, the best outcome from this would the amount of people who’ve said they’ve talked with their family, or on their driver’s license they’ve marked they’re an organ donor. Also, to see that Nova Scotia has become the first province in Canada…

April:  to opt everyone in.

Lindsay: I’m really hopefing that New Brunswick will follow suit and the rest of the provinces for a national opt-out policy. I think that would be really exciting. Perhaps that will be the next phase of advocacy for my Dad and I, to start working on that national policy and what can we do to help make that possible. 90% of Canadians say they support organ donation but only 20% are registered to do that. There’s a huge disconnect between what we want and how we’re going to make that happen. The amount of cadaver organs is increasing, I think it’s up 17%, which is amazing, but it’s not enough to cover the amount of people in Canada just waiting and waiting for new organs and tissue. It would be really exciting to see this start to happen across the country.

A huge thank you to Lindsay for joining me today. You can find more information about the National Kidney Donor Registry at . Please remember to sign your donor cards and talk with your family, as in many cases, next-of-kin can still veto your desire to donate your organs and tissue at the time of neurological death unless your wishes are very clear.

The Ripple Effect Podcast

About the Podcast

April MacKinnon dives into how reframing our self-limiting beliefs and behaviours and bravely chasing our dreams, ripple out to change the world, one action at a time. And how, sometimes, it is the small moments in life that lead to a complete pivot in perspective, only to be found in hindsight. More about April »

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