Jessica Bailey - 2021

Update - Woman delayed finding organ match during pandemic finally receives kidney - from sister

Jessica Bailey, who goes by JB, said the situation became dire when the Province suspended the organ donation program because critically ill COVID-19 patients were overwhelming the system. She has received a kidney that saved her life - from her sister Melanie.

Sept 01, 2023

We last reported on Jessica Bailey in November of 2021 - the then 36-year-old was suffering from stage 5 kidney disease; at the time, she said without a kidney transplant, she had a year to live.

I was too sick to do it

She doesn't know if her actions protesting against shutting down the transplant program helped, but she was hoping it did. She was offered a meeting with the Health Minister with Paul Merriman, "but I was too sick to do it and that didn't end up happening."

The search for a donor started in 2019, with several people close to JB getting tested. Her sister was initially disqualified because she had borderline high blood pressure. Then COVID hit, and people in the transplant program were redeployed to other areas, shutting down the program. In early 2022, the government announced it would be redeploying coordinators back to their positions.

Melanie had already started the work to get her blood pressure down by losing weight, and by March 2022, she had become a match.

JB and Melanie didn't get excited because so many things had been throwing them off track until Bee was finally in the operating room. "With all of the stuff that had happened, I really didn't want to get excited because I knew it could stop at any moment," said Melanie.

Before she could get into surgery, there were many close calls for JB, and she was critically ill. "As you get sicker, your chances get less that you will qualify to get the transplant."

Eventually, she became stable enough to go through with the surgery.

"We didn't really get excited until we were rolling into the surgery room," said JB. After the surgery, there were more issues as the kidney didn't start working immediately. JB said they were told there is a less than one percent chance of that happening, and it had not happened with their transplant team before. She stayed on dialysis while everyone waited. It didn't start up for ten nerve-wracking days.

It took a while for her to start feeling better. She stayed in the hospital for a month after the transplant. It's been nine months since the transplant, and she feels a lot better.

Sisters Melanie (left) and Jessica Bailey - June 2023 in Las Vegas

When asked what it meant for her to have her sister donate her kidney, JB said, "it's a hard question to answer. An unimaginable amount of gratefulness…there is no words that can explain that. It's somebody giving you your life back."

"Its amazing to be able to give something like that…I was her caregiver at the time so I saw how sick she was and honestly I would've done anything to just get the job done," said Melanie.

They both said the whole experience has been like waking up from a nightmare. JB is now looking towards the future, continuing her education and returning to work at SaskPower as an operator at the power plant.

JB and Melanie are extremely thankful to the transplant coordinators: "they are the cornerstone..they really care," The nurses on the hemodialysis were a major support and JB credits one for saving her life during one incident.

They both encourage people to sign their donor cards.

Health and Education

Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter