SASKATOON – A Saskatchewan couple have found out they are quite the match for each other in more ways than one. They shared Valentine’s Day together after a successful set of surgeries.
“To be able to spend this Valentine’s Day together when you’ve been through something like that is life altering for both people. It’s just to me the greatest gift that anyone could have given me,” said Chris Willenborg.
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Willenborg and his fiancée Errin Tollefson met in 2009 at an agricultural conference and have remains friends ever since. On their first couple dates, Willenborg learned that Tollefson was a dialysis patient.
“I got to know more about it as I got to know more about her and really what it was that changed me was seeing Errin get an infection. People on dialysis are more prone to infections that can be actually quite life-threatening in some cases without medical intervention,” Willenborg said.
“What it boils down to is, Errin was basically born with one kidney, essentially, that quit functioning when she came into her 20s.”
Originally, Tollefson’s father was set to donate his kidney.
“[Her father] did start the donation process but unfortunately in that process they did find that he had cancer and so despite doing everything he could to give the kidney, he was unable to do that and passed away shortly after,” Willenborg said.
Willenborg says he got tested, found out he was a suitable match and everything just spiralled from there.
“I was able to match and sort of pick up where [her father] left off,” Willenborg said.
The surgery date was Feb. 4 and Tollefson was released from hospital on the Friday just before Valentine’s Day.
“As far as we know, a complete success, they tell us that the kidney’s actually functioning in the 90th percentile of all the kidneys that they’ve transplanted in Saskatoon, which means that it’s doing extremely well,” Willenborg said.
“Having her home and even just two days together, to be able to just hang out, you don’t have that sense of wondering ‘is she doing OK,’ … so for both of us those anxieties of how the other one is doing are almost completely alleviated when we’re together.”
He proposed back in February 2015 and their wedding is set for this August.
Besides his symbolic gesture of love to his fiancée, Valentine’s Day will also continue to a serve as a reminder of the importance of organ donation for Willenborg.
“I really hope that when people hear this, they think about either signing their organ donor card or even consider living donation because I didn’t know anything about it a year ago and it so far has been by far the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Willenborg said.