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Young kidney transplant patient sitting on hospital chair with hemodialysis nurse beside him.
Trevor Brubacher receives dialysis at McMaster Children’s Hospital as he waits for kidney transplant surgery in Toronto. He’s pictured here with Sarah Dutson, hemodialysis nurse.
November 18, 2022

Kidney patient and young chef looks forward to tasting success

Trevor Brubacher, 12, is known for his skills in his family’s kitchen. Soon, the Mount Forest boy will be able to enjoy every second, and every bite, of doing what he loves without any medical obstacles holding him back.

In October 2020, Trevor’s family brought him to his local emergency department due to red urine and a rash. Test results showed his kidneys were failing and he was sent to Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH) for further care.

“Mac understands kids. The way they work is phenomenal.” – Ken Brubacher, Trevor’s dad

Trevor was diagnosed with IgA vasculitis, a rare disorder causing tiny blood vessels in his kidneys to become inflamed and damaged. The kidney’s primary function is to remove water and waste from the blood, and excrete waste into the urine. Due to leaking in Trevor’s blood vessels, he was struggling to filter blood in his kidneys.

The diagnosis will mean a kidney transplant at SickKids hospital in Toronto, with MCH providing care leading up to his surgery date, as well as follow-up care. While Trevor is waiting for surgery, he’s receiving hemodialysis treatment at MCH.

Kidney failure treatment path

Trevor’s kidney disease treatment changed from home dialysis to hospital-based dialysis.

Trevor started off with peritoneal dialysis at home, where the blood is cleaned inside the body using the lining of the belly as a natural filter.

“He was so overloaded with fluid that dialysis has given him an opportunity to feel like a person again.” – Sarah Dutson, hemodialysis nurse

But after six months of this treatment, Trevor experienced some setbacks and complications with peritoneal dialysis, so his care team switched his treatment to a new kind of dialysis to clean his blood.

Trevor now needs hemodialysis, which means appointments at MCH three times a week for three hours per treatment. The hemodialysis process involves having blood flow through a central line placed in his neck vessels, cleaning his blood of any toxins and removing excess fluid, and then returning the cleaned blood to his body.

“He was so overloaded with fluid. Dialysis has given him an opportunity to feel like a person again,” says Sarah Dutson, MCH hemodialysis nurse. “Trevor had a tremendous amount of fluid on him. The fluid retention has significantly decreased with the help of hemodialysis treatments.”

“It takes the right kind of person to donate a kidney. It is not for everyone.” – Ken Brubacher, Trevor’s dad

This current treatment to manage his kidney failure consists of long days, added Dutson. “The hemodialysis process takes place for three hours. It makes kids very tired and drained after a long day. The family has quite a long drive of about two hours just to get to the hospital. The family basically spends their whole day here.”

As a result, Trevor is on a strict diet that prevents him from enjoying some of the food he loves. And treatment is also preventing him from going to school and seeing his friends, since he can only attend three days a week in person.

Having a kidney transplant would mean far fewer visits to the hospital, shortened appointment times, and a better quality of life.

Donor outreach in local church group

Trevor’s future began to turn around when a member of the family’s church group offered to donate a kidney.

“It takes the right kind of person to donate a kidney. It is not for everyone,” says Trevor’s father Ken Brubacher. “We’re incredibly grateful to this congregation member for stepping up to help Trevor. We’re hopeful it’s a match and should find out soon.”

Trevor, far right, pictured with his family.

Preparing for transplant surgery

Trevor’s transplant will hopefully take place in the coming months at SickKids hospital in Toronto. An MCH team consisting of hemodialysis nurses, a transplant coordinator and primary nephrologist, Dr. Charu Prasad, are helping Trevor and his family prepare.

The team’s work involves creating a care plan that includes bloodwork, heart health, ensuring vaccines are up to date, dental checks, and monitoring blood pressure.

The nurses work with Trevor and his family to ensure he is healthy as possible pre-surgery, while keeping all his information up to date. The team also educates the family about the whole process of transplant surgery.

“Mac understands kids,” says Ken. “The team handled everything well when speaking to us and Trevor about the process. They’re an impressive team and know their stuff. The way they work is phenomenal.”

Trevor will return to MCH after his surgery for follow-up care by the nephrology team. Their plan is to start with weekly follow-ups post-surgery, slowly moving into performing monthly checkups.

Until his surgery, Trevor will continue coming to MCH for hemodialysis treatments and care to ensure he is ready for his big day.

Meanwhile, Trevor is looking forward to getting through the transplant and once again enjoying the foods he loves to make.

“We’re looking forward to life returning to normal,” says Ken.