Back to Top Becoming a living kidney donor has never been easier: Trina and Antonio’s story - The Ottawa Hospital

Becoming a living kidney donor has never been easier: Trina and Antonio’s story

Trina Onofrio, living kidney donor, and her brother, Antonio

Trina Onofrio and her family began the new year looking forward to spending March break with her brother, Antonio. But one day in February, Trina’s sister-in-law called her with devastating and unexpected news.

Antonio had just been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. For his entire life, the athletic 38-year-old never had any serious health issues, but doctors were now telling him he would soon need a kidney transplant.

“I thought I was having a bad dream,” recalls Trina. “My mind was racing.”

Though she had many questions, she never thought twice about donating a kidney to her beloved brother. “As soon as I heard the heartbreaking news, I automatically knew I was going to get tested.”

Living donors like Trina face an extensive evaluation process to determine if they are healthy enough to donate. The entire process takes about 10 months in Canada and includes an array of tests. This means a lot of commuting back and forth to the hospital for chest X-rays, CT scans, renal scans, electrocardiograms, abdominal ultrasounds and more.

For Trina, this would have been especially challenging, as she lives in Sault Ste. Marie, while her brother lives in Ottawa. She is also a business owner and the mother of three boys. Fortunately, a new program at The Ottawa Hospital allowed Trina to complete nearly all her tests in just a single day.

Trina and Antonio as children
Trina and Antonio have always been close.

A better process for both donors and recipients

Recognizing the need to expedite this lengthy process, The Ottawa Hospital launched its one-day living kidney donor evaluation program in November 2021.

“An expedited one-day donor evaluation process allows candidates to be approved as kidney donors faster,” explains Dr. Ann Bugeja, a nephrologist and Medical Director of the Living Kidney Donor Program at The Ottawa Hospital. “This has been shown to increase living donor kidney transplantation rates and donor satisfaction in Ireland, but only one other hospital in Canada has adopted this approach.”

Over the past year, 33 donor candidates have gone through the one-day evaluation process and 13 have been approved to be living donors.

Trina and Antonio

A perfect match and a perfect outcome

After completing her preliminary blood and urine tests in March at The Ottawa Hospital’s Riverside Campus, Trina reported to the General Campus in April for a full day of diagnostic tests and consultations with specialists. She arrived early in the morning and stayed until the late afternoon.

Though it was a long day, she was very happy to complete her tests in quick succession. “Everything was so effortless. They made it work around my schedule,” she says. “It was amazing how well organized they had this.”

At the end of the day, Trina received the news she had been hoping for ever since her brother was diagnosed. “I found out I was a match and healthy enough to donate,” she recalls with joy.

Trina would later learn that not only was she a match, she was a perfect match. This means that Trina and her brother share many genetic markers. Though not necessary for a successful transplant, a perfect match typically leads to a superior outcome for the recipient.

In July, she went into surgery at the General Campus. “Once the surgery was over, I woke up in pain but feeling so relieved and happy that I did it. The surgeon told me that my brother was doing amazing and that my kidney was fully working. Right then, I broke down in tears of happiness.”

The day Trina left the hospital, she was able to walk and climb stairs. After six weeks, she was back to her normal routine, including driving her kids to school. And after two months, she was fully recovered.

Trina holds Antonio’s hand after his surgery at the General Campus
Trina visits her brother at the General Campus after his surgery.

“I would do it all over again in a heartbeat”

Trina talks to her brother every day. She is very happy to report that four months after his surgery, the father of twin boys now has excellent bloodwork and is back to eating his regular diet. “He is doing absolutely fantastic,” she says with a smile. “It’s amazing to see what donating a kidney can do to get someone’s life back in a matter of days.”

Trina is now a vocal advocate of living kidney donation. “I hope that more people are aware of living donation because I think more people should donate,” she says. “It’s a wonderful thing, and it can be an easy thing. Now that I’ve been through it, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.”

Dr. Bugeja hopes that The Ottawa Hospital’s program will inspire change throughout the country. “We hope this will lead to widespread adoption of the one-day evaluation process and more living kidney donor transplants performed in Canada each year.”

More inspiring stories

To read more stories from donors like Trina and to learn more about living kidney donation, please visit The Ottawa Hospital’s Living Kidney Donation website.


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