Ron Poole donated a kidney to his daughter Ashley after she was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)

Skeena Voices | Administrator and living kidney donor

Ron Poole is the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine’s CAO and a mentor to other kidney donors

Ron Poole, 59, is a veteran administrator, having served as the chief administrative officer for Chetwynd, Terrace, Kitimat, Mission and now, the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine.

In 2015, he was awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Silver Medal for Excellence in Public Administration for his passion, commitment and leadership over more than 30 years in local government.

“It’s the one job you really feel you can give back to the community, or you can make a difference in the community,” he said.

“I just find anyone in local government, no matter what position you’re in, has that ability to affect the livability of the community.”

Poole is awaiting an important anniversary this summer, but it has nothing to do with his work. June 6, 2021 marks both the annual Kidney Walk, and five years since he donated a kidney to his daughter Ashley.

Back in 2015, Ron and his wife Karen received a call from Ashley, who was working for LNG Canada in Kitimat at the time. She told them that her blood pressure was high, but not to worry.

Shortly after that, they got word that Ashley would be on a medevac to Prince George, a moment that is still emotional for Poole to recall. Doctors thought the problem had something to do with her kidneys.

“And so the question was, okay, we think we know what it is. But now how damaged are the kidneys, because I think if they’re around 5 per cent or greater, there’s a chance they could come back,” Poole said.

“Hers were well below.”

On Ashley’s 27th birthday, after a month in the hospital being monitored by the renal unit, she was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy — end-stage kidney failure and placed on a transplant list.

“We never did ask the question, is there something we could have done? Because you’re there,” he said.

“If you know me, I just try not to worry until I have something to worry about. Maybe it comes with the job. And we just dealt with it.”

Ron and Karen both volunteered to donate a kidney to Ashley but Karen was ruled out.

It took until June 3, 2016 for the Pooles to find out if Ron would be a suitable donor. In the meantime, he had to lose weight, bring his heart rate down, and lower his blood sugar consistently while Ashley was undergoing regular dialysis.

He said that when he found out he was cleared to donate, the feeling was exhilarating.

“I just did not want to be off that list,” he said. “I wasn’t nervous. They couldn’t move fast enough. It’s different when it’s your kid.”

Three days later, he donated his kidney and has been involved with the Kidney Foundation of Canada ever since as a living donor mentor. As a father who donated to his daughter, Poole usually gets paired up with parents and their children or siblings.

“I just talk to them. One of the rules is, I don’t tell people they should, it’s being really careful. All you want to do is support where they want to go, or hear them because they feel you understand [because] you’ve gone through it, and they want to know, how are you feeling today? Can you still do this? What do you do there? So it’s that kind of stuff.”

Every year the Pooles enter a team for the annual Kidney Walk called the Renal Renegades to raise money for the Kidney Foundation. In a non-pandemic year, the team walks around downtown Terrace and George Little Park.

“I know there’s others here, especially in Terrace, that are going through the same thing. They sit on the transplant list,” he said.

“I can tell you how many hundreds are sitting on that list waiting for people to pass or living donor to come forward. So for me it’s more that push to get living donors and getting groups signing up and saving lives.”

Poole said that Terrace is an important location for renal patients because it has been home to a renal unit since 2003. Prior to that, the requirements of dialysis treatment meant that people in the northwest would have to move to Prince George or the lower mainland. Having treatment locally helps keep kidney disease more visible.

“The businesses in Terrace have been exceptionally good, I can’t complain about it. Terrace does really well I would say for its size, it’s probably one of the best fundraisers in the province,” Poole said.

“I simply think the reason is those businesses are familiar with people who use this unit. You don’t see that kind [of support] in a community that doesn’t have the unit, because so many more people live in Terrace that need it.”

To learn more about kidney disease and the 2021 Kidney Walk, visit www.kidneywalk.ca. To view the Renal Renegades team page, select British Columbia & Yukon and search for Renal Renegades.