Toronto, ON | Apr. 27, 2023
Vickrama Wijetunga was an hour late for work. It was unusual for the normally punctual Sheet Metal Tech. He had been at a doctor’s appointment that morning and gotten some bad news. His kidneys were failing, and he needed a transplant. The process of finding a donor could take a very long time. He would have to immediately begin dialysis to stay alive, a process that involves filtering all the blood in a person’s body through and external machine. Vickrama, who goes by Vick, hadn’t even told his family yet as he walked into Field’s facility in Toronto.
Trying to come to grips with his diagnosis, Vick began discussing the situation with some of his coworkers. His supervisor, Richard Janusz, overheard and offered to donate a kidney for him. Richard is a Program Coordinator in the same facility and the two had met while working on projects together and while they were outside on smoke breaks. However, Vick didn’t know if Richard realized what he was really signing up for.
“I was surprised. I wanted him to be sure,” said Vick. “I told him to look into it and make sure he understood the pain and recovery he was signing up for. He was my boss and I respected him, but we weren’t close friends then.”
Richard was serious though and, thanks to his universal blood type, a match for the donation. But finding a donor on day one didn’t mean the path was easy. They began working with the kidney team to get the transplant done, but the process took over 18 months. While they were waiting, Vick’s condition continued to worsen, and he had two brushes with death due to medical accidents with his dialysis. Richard ended up taking over the process with the doctors.
“We were waiting and there was lots of miscommunication,” said Richard. “I told them, look he’s getting dialysis almost every day, we need to get this done.”
Richard’s efforts were successful and finally in January 2022, the day of the procedure came. As they were lying on tables at opposite ends of the same operating room, Vick realized her had never asked Richard why he had agreed to give him a kidney so quickly.
“He said he saw a lot of good in me and admired my principles,” stated Vick.
Richard recounted “Vick’s a good guy, good family man so I thought ‘What the hell?’ The world needs a bit of kindness.”
The surgery was successful, but recovery has been long. Richard spent three months healing from the donation and Vick continues to heal and adjust to his new normal. But both men are in good spirits and happy to have saved Vick’s life.
Vick also asked Richard’s wife, Joanne, why she was ok with her husband going through all this. She replied, “I just want to know how you got him to stop smoking.”