Family is on a mission to find a kidney for their matriarch

Searching across Canada for a rare blood type kidney donation

By Emma Boyne | July 13, 2022 |5:00 am

The Hamal family hopes someone sees these posters in Calgary and Vancouver or the website and can donate a kidney.

Photo: Submitted

Poonam Hamal moved to Canada in 2001 with her family, starting a life in the country as she and her family settled down in Vancouver.  

Making a community for herself, Poonam would work two jobs at seniors homes, serving up food and cleaning their rooms. The 12-hour shifts were long, but the people made it worthwhile, and she always smiled, even on the worst of days. 

But, when Poonam was diagnosed with immunoglobulin A nephropathy (IgAN) in 2011, being able to help out in the community became more difficult. 

“It is very painful, most of the time [the fluids] don’t drain and it feels like muscle pulls everything from my body,” Poonam explains. 

“My body is now weak, every day I feel divided. I do not like to eat nowadays, there are so many problems like backaches, cramping in my legs, even my fingers are cramping.”

With no cure for the illness, Poonam’s family was left devastated and confused by the news, looking for any way possible to help out their mom. 

What the diagnosis means 

IgA nephropathy occurs when IgA protein gets stuck in the kidneys and causes inflammation. The inflammation causes the kidneys to leak blood and protein immediately, and can persist over many years. This causes the kidneys to lose function and leads to kidney failure.

“There’s no real cause for that and there’s no cure for it either, so we were a bit shocked,” Poonam’s son Shaurab Hamal says.

His mother’s illness has grown worse, causing her to become weaker and more emotional. Over the past decade, she has tried changing her diet and taking various medications, including steroids and various homeopathic medicines, none of which have worked. 

Being on peritoneal dialysis since 2019, every night she connects a machine to her stomach through a tube, which performs the role her kidneys should. 

On the hunt for a kidney donor 

One of the only options is to replace her kidney. Organ donors are hard to come by, especially since Poonam’s blood type, B+, is the rarest in Canada. 

That’s why Poonam’s sons took initiative and started a campaign, creating a website and spreading posters around the community to gain the support of any Canadian willing to help — including right here in Calgary where one of her sons lives. 

“We basically launched a marketing campaign to raise awareness for my mom online,” Shaurab says. 

“We made a video for her, and a lot of our family and friends shared it, a lot of strangers through really just kindness, and through that, some people called us and said, ‘I want to see if I can do something.’” 

A community coming together 

While many were unable to donate their kidney, Poonam says the community continues to show their support, just as she wanted to do for her community. 

“Social media is one avenue and so we made a poster and there’s flowers around the poster,” Shaurab says. “We made [posters], we put a QR link to the video so that people know about her story.” 

After spreading the posters around both Calgary and Vancouver, the Hamals are hopeful that the community will be able to help and that Poonam can pay it forward with kindness. 

“I want to live the best life as much as possible, and I want to continue to be a good person in the world,” Poonam says. “I want to try to do my best to make a good place.”

If you think you can help Poonam, you can contact the family at 1-788-957-5664 or online.

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Emma Boyne

Emma Boyne is an intern at Calgary Citizen.

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