Markham man receives kidney transplant at age 87

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June 11, 2023 marked a day of rebirth for Markham resident Walter Tom Tauro, who received a kidney transplant at St. Michael’s Hospital at the age of 87 years and 262 days, earning recognition from Guinness World Records as the oldest kidney transplant recipient worldwide.

Tauro had been grappling with kidney disease for 15 years. The relentless dialysis treatments robbed his life of quality, prompting his desire for a kidney transplant to regain a semblance of normalcy.

Having joined the wait list in 2020, Tauro was uncertain how long he’d wait for a suitable kidney donor. A few years ago, he even contemplated purchasing a kidney from his homeland, India, where such practices were feasible back then. However, he ultimately abandoned the idea due to high risks such as mismatched compatibility or poor post-operative outcomes.

“In India, only the wealthy have this option, whereas in Canada, doctors don’t inquire about your background or income; everyone is entitled to human dignity,” he said.

Tauro considers himself lucky to be in Canada, where he can access free and high-quality health care. What is luckier is that he found a matching kidney donor only after a three-year wait.

Undergoing a kidney transplant at nearly 90-years-old carries significant risks. Doctors warned Tauro that he might not survive the surgery or could face serious complications like a stroke.

Nevertheless, Tauro was willing to take the chance, as dialysis had become unbearable.

“I was so relieved; I had felt tired for so long and was ready for my new beginning,” he said. “I knew it would be a long road, but I was ready for a second chance.”

St. Michael’s Kidney Transplant Program is a specialized centre for people with severe kidney disease. Founded in 1969, the program is one of the largest in Canada. The team’s ability to tackle the most complex transplant surgeries and provide followup care gives patients who have often been waiting for a new kidney for years a chance to live free from dialysis and renal disease.

“In our program, it is not the age of the patient that matters, it is their overall health,” said Meriam Jayoma-Austria, a registered nurse in the program. “Walter went through the program seamlessly, from his heart assessments to a bone marrow analysis.”

The surgery was successful. Currently, Tauro requires monthly hospital checkups, but by this June, one year post-surgery, he will be completely free.

As a retired realtor, Tauro used to complain about paying too much in taxes and receiving too few benefits. However, following his surgery, the meticulous care from medical staff, and the free transportation for people with mobility issues like him, he couldn’t help but reflect: “there is a return on investment; Canada’s health care is the best and those who criticize it (do so) because they haven’t experienced how other health care systems operate.”

No longer dependent on dialysis, Tauro now has more time to spend with his family and looks forward to travelling in the near future.

Scarlett Liu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Markham Economist & Sun

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