Health complications leave B.C. man off donor list, needs ‘living transplant’

Geoff Dunsire of Maple Ridge has been going to dialysis for five years and wants a normal life back

Geoff Dunsire has spent a good portion of his 30 years in hospitals, and now needs a second organ transplant.

When he was 13, an adverse reaction to a hepatitis-B vaccine caused an incurable liver disease that he battled for the next 17 years.

After liver failure and a transplant, as well as losing the ability to walk, Dunsire needs another transplant, as his kidneys are failing.

“I hope I get a kidney transplant so I can start living my life normally.”

But due to complications from previous health problems, Dunsire was not put on a waiting list for a kidney donor, making the search for one his responsibility.

His mother, Tracey Dunsire, said that he requires a living transplant because his medical history is so complex.

“We were told now he needs a living donor because there’s so many complications. It has to do with medications he’s on from his liver transplant that causes him to have a very low white blood cell count.”

Both Tracey and her husband both started the testing process to become their son’s living donor.

“The fatigue and exhaustion it causes him is debilitating,” she said.

Unfortunately, certain levels in her kidneys were too low to qualify as a candidate. She is currently going through further testing.

But in case she’s not a suitable match, the family is reaching out to the public to find a living donor.

“Geoff is the epitome of strength and determination,” said his mother.

For the past five years, Dunsire has spent three days a week in dialysis at the Royal Columbia Hospital, and continues to do so. He said each session takes up a full day and leaves him exhausted.

“I go to dialysis three times a week and that’s exhausting. It sucks. I wake up at six, get there around seven, have four hours of hook-up with the needles injected in me, then I wait, get picked up and go home to sleep. It takes up the whole day.”

Previously, he managed his liver disease and led an active lifestyle.

As a 13-year old burdened with an incurable disease, Dunsire lived a normal childhood full of sports practices and family time.

“I used to play hockey, I did yoga, jiu-jitsu, hiked the ‘Chief’ and many other trails, played golf with my dad, a lot. I used to do a lot of things, but not so much anymore,” Dunsire said.

At 25, he began feeling ill and assumed it was the flu. His symptoms led him to the hospital, where he found out he was suffering from end-stage liver disease. The hospital visit ended up being a 3.5 month stay in Vancouver General Hospital’s intensive care unit.

During that time, Dunsire dealt with a multitude of poor health. He went into a coma, was on life support, his kidneys shut down, a blood infection caused a brain injury, and he nearly went blind.

“Everything that can go wrong for Geoff, has,” said his mother.

In total, Dunsire spent 6.5 months at VGH, five at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre and another four at Yale Road Centre.

Going home was no easy feat. During his health crisis, Dunsire had been paralyzed from the neck down and required a power wheelchair.

“He was told he would never walk again,” added his mother.

But Dunsire had a bundle of determination.

“I knew I was going to walk again. I knew there was no chance of me being stopped. When I made it up stairs for the first time, it was awesome.”

Today, Dunsire walks unassisted and can drive a vehicle. He stands over six feet tall, and had shrunken to 120 pounds while hospitalized. But he has gained most of his weight back and continues to work out daily to build up strength.

To keep busy, Dunsire has volunteered with the City of Maple Ridge and helped out at community events such as Caribbean Fest, Cops for Cancer and Country Fest.

Between dialysis treatments, he plays street hockey, bowls, golfs, does jiu jitsu and yoga.

Despite his dialysis schedule and constant fatigue, Dunsire said keeping up with sports is his way to enjoy being active.

“I have no idea why I’m so motivated. I just enjoy doing them, it keeps me active. I get to meet new people and interact with them, whereas I don’t see a lot of friends anymore.”

His social life has also taken a hit since he spent much of his 20s in the hospital and working towards recovery.

“I’ve missed a lot – my friends getting married, having kids. I’m not as involved with my friends as much, which is unfortunate.”

The family hopes finding a kidney donor is the last of Dunsire’s health hurdles, and that he will be able to live a normal life, for once.

“He just keeps on setting all these goals and just crushing them,” said his mother.

Anyone interested in becoming Geoff’s donor or getting more information can contact Tracey at dunsirefamily@live.ca.

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Geoff Dunsire is reaching out to the public to find a living kidney donor so his life can get back to normal. (Miranda Fatur/THE NEWS)

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