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Tuesday, August 9, 2022
Niagara woman searching for kidney donor

Without surgery, Debbie Jamison faces a life of dialysis treatments


Debbie Jamison has about a year to find a kidney donor before she has to go on dialysis to stay alive.

Jamison has been putting up signs throughout the Niagara Region to draw attention to her fight. One can be seen in Niagara-on-the-Lake near Sunshine Express Garden Centre on Carlton Street East.

“I’m not going to lie, at the beginning I was scared out of my mind,” the St. Catharines native said.

Jamison, now in her 40s, was born with polycystic kidney disease and has been searching for a kidney donor to help maintain her quality of life.

“It’s just progressively gotten worse with age,” she said.

Since the disease is hereditary, Jamison is not able to turn to a relative for a donation.

“My fight is on my own right now because no one in my family can help me,” she said in an interview Monday.

“I’m relying on friends and strangers.”

She was told in February that she had up to 18 months to find a donor before she will need to live on dialysis.

She’s looking for a live donor to help her and wants to raise awareness for others suffering from kidney disease who are struggling to find a transplant.

“I am fortunate that I have 12 to 18 months, so I am kind of lucky,” Jamison said.

“I see all these people coming forward and there’s lots of people that need help too. I’d be just as happy to help someone else and I hope I can with this,” she said.

People have been reaching out to Jamison because of the signs she put up.

“You wouldn’t believe the outpouring of support just from the signs. Complete strangers well-wishing me and asking, ‘What can I do to help?’ You wouldn’t believe it,” she said.

But putting her information in the public sphere, even for a good cause and her own health, has attracted some negative attention.

Jamison said she has received harassing emails from people offering to give her their kidney in exchange for other services.

“I’ll save your life, but what will you do for me?” is a common email she said she's received.

“It brought me down quite a bit when it first happened. But, you know what? I’ve had so many positive emails that it just outweighs it.” 

Jamison lives in Toronto with her husband Jim but has been staying at her in-laws' cottage near Port Dover since the pandemic began.

Her disease means she is at high risk of getting severely ill from COVID and she is not able to get the vaccine.

“People who are in my situation or who have had transplants and or dialysis, they’re not sure COVID shots are quite effective. People in my situation have to be super careful,” she said.

Kidney donors in Ontario can have all costs associated with the donation, such as transport and accommodations, subsidized by the government. The surgery is done laparoscopically, which means there are only tiny incisions, Jamison said.

Recovery time is two or three days in the hospital and two weeks of rest.

Jamison encourages others to share her story in order to raise awareness about live kidney donations. If anyone is able to donate or knows a potential donor, she can be reached at