Patient stories

Despite health challenges, Jane’s spirit is high

Jane Kim-Waung

To say that Jane Kim-Waung has been through a lot is the greatest of understatements. For nearly half of the 35-year-old’s life, she has battled one critical health issue after another. 

At 20, Jane was diagnosed with lupus, an incurable, chronic inflammatory disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs, including the kidneys and heart.

At 30, she underwent surgery at Sunnybrook to replace her heart’s mitral valve. Two months later she had thyroid cancer surgery here. And ever since then, she’s been travelling to Sunnybrook four times a week for her three-hour dialysis sessions, which compensate for her failed kidneys.

Despite these challenges, Jane’s spirit is high. She is the definition of resilience.

At Jane’s side for the last five years has been Dr. Michelle Hladunewich, head of Sunnybrook’s kidney care program. “Doctors are really special, but I think Dr. Michelle is a little more special than most,” says Jane, referring to Dr. Hladunewich in the casual tone that many of her patients do.

When the kidneys fail, there are two ways to survive: dialysis treatment, which removes waste and extra fluid from blood that the kidneys no longer can, or a kidney transplant – though a transplant isn’t always possible, and the wait can be many years.

“Dialysis makes the hospital your second home,” Jane says. The reality for her and so many kidney disease patients is that they spend long hours – 12 or more per week is typical – hooked up to a hemodialysis machine in Sunnybrook’s cramped and dated dialysis unit.

To improve the quality of our dialysis patients’ experience and to give staff the room they need to deliver care, Sunnybrook is transforming its kidney care facilities, including the construction of a spacious and bright dialysis unit within a state-of-the-art Kidney Care Centre adjacent to Sunnybrook.

The centre, to open in October 2015, will feature a 24-station dialysis unit, home dialysis training space and dedicated space for education and research. Once it opens, Sunnybrook will renovate its current dialysis unit to serve higher-needs patients, including veterans.

Jane is grateful that donors are investing in the Kidney Care Centre. “This support is going to make life better for all of us who depend on these life-sustaining services.”

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