Lower Mainland woman grateful after stranger donates kidney

Fifty-four-year-old Poonam Hamal is overjoyed and emotional about her new life.

Six months ago, she underwent kidney transplant surgery, receiving a kidney from a stranger who shared her rare blood type — B-positive — after years of being on a transplant waiting list.

Katie Fillion says she saw on social media that the Hamal family was desperately seeking a kidney donor, and after vigorous testing, she and Poonam went in for the transplant last summer.

“I know what it’s like to have a sick parent and not be able to help, and I always wanted to donate,” Fillion said. “When I read about dialysis, I realized that it’s not really a replacement for a kidney, and there aren’t enough kidneys. And that’s when I realized I wanted to donate.”

CityNews met with Poonam and her family in July 2022. At the time, she shared her nine-hour daily dialysis routine, which was necessary because her kidneys couldn’t filter out the toxins from her body.

“It is very painful — the fluid has to drain from my body,” she said at the time. “Most of the time, the fluid doesn’t drain properly, and the fluid deposits in my wrist and ankle and makes them swell.”

Poonam’s youngest son, Saurabh Hamal, put up posters around the Lower Mainland and started a social media campaign in search of a B-positive kidney donor.

“It’s not pleasant seeing your mom plugged into a machine every night,” he said. “Because of science, this is a disease that can be cured, so I thought what action I could take here”

After years of waiting for a kidney, on New Year’s Eve, Shaurab received a message from a stranger offering to be a donor for his mother.

Fillion, who is 40 years old, says she has recovered well from the surgery and is living her life the way she did before donating her kidney. She says Canadian Blood Services did a lot of tests to make sure she could be an eligible donor.

“Going into the surgery I knew I had two very healthy kidneys,” she said. “They project what your kidney functions will be as you age, and they said they want to make sure with one kidney, you will have healthy kidney function when you are 100 years old.”

In return, Poonam’s 30-year-old daughter Shiwangi Hamal donated her kidney anonymously as part of the “Kidney Paired Donation” program with Canadian Blood Services.

“Katie started a chain where she donated to my mom, and I donated to another patient,” Shiwangi said. “And we created a chain of donor receipts to hopefully help a few people along the way.”

Poonam says she feels “very good” after the transplant.

“I feel so grateful for everything,” she said. “My health is so much better. I am still recovering from the surgery, but I have much more energy. I don’t have to do dialysis anymore, which was very painful.

Poonam says she gets emotional when she thinks about everything.

“I’m so thankful for my daughter and Katie,” she said. “I am very grateful they gave me the gift of life.”

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