Kidney transplant offers Victoria boy a fresh start

When Coen Wallace goes swimming, it’s hard to get him out of the water.

When Coen Wallace goes swimming, it’s hard to get him out of the water.

The seven-year-old Greater Victoria resident loves splashing around and swimming like a fish. But four years ago, swimming was something his parents thought he would never be able to achieve.

Coen was born with underdeveloped kidneys which resulted in bilateral hydronephrosis, a condition in which urine in unable to drain from the kidney into the bladder. Within seven days of him being born, Coen went through three surgeries, which included inserting a peritoneal dialysis catheter into the abdomen, allowing for a special dialysis fluid to remove toxins, water and salts from the body.

“(We were) devastated. Some people lose a child, you go through the loss of a healthy child,” said his mother Tanis Burghardt.

During their four months in hospital, Tanis and her husband became nurses to their son and were taught how to hook Coen up to a dialysis machine when they returned to their Victoria home.

For the next three years, Coen was put on dialysis 12 hours a day. It became routine, the family would go about their normal day and between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., they would hook Coen up to the machine until he woke up the next morning a time Tanis described as extremely stressful, but helped bring the family together. He also had a feeding tube, which prevented Coen from going swimming, in case of infection.

All seemed well, until dialysis stopped working. Coen then had to be put on another type of dialysis which required them to travel to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver four days a week for five months. During that time, Tanis received help from the David Foster Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides financial support for non-medical expenses to Canadian families with children in need of life-saving organ transplants. The foundation helped cover expenses as the family travelled between their home and the hospital on the mainland.

Coen’s only hope was to receive a kidney transplant. No one in the family was a blood match, so the family decided to put an ad in the paper reaching out for donors. Ultimately, a family friend came forward and offered to donate his kidney.

To this day, Tanis has a hard time coming up with the words to show her appreciation to Coen’s donor.

“There’s not any words. You can’t even describe the compassion you can think that somebody would have to help you with your child,” Tanis said, adding the man had children of his own as well. “It was overwhelming.”

Now, four years after the transplant, Coen is doing well and enjoys swimming, dancing and playing outside.

Country Grocer is holding a fundraising kick off barbecue in support of the David Foster Foundation at its Esquimalt location this week. Proceeds from the barbecue go to support kids such as Coen who are waiting for transplants and their families. Money raised helps provide financial assistance, such as accomodation, travel, food, clothing and mortgage payments to such families.

The barbecue takes place on Friday, March 31 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Country Grocer in Esquimalt. For the month of April, the foundation will have staff rotating between Country Grocer’s seven locations, where they’ll educate shoppers on the importance of becoming a registered organ donor.

The David Foster Foundation has helped more than 1,000 families across the country since its inception 30 years ago.