“Eight years ago, I received a heart transplant,” said 68-year-old John Quinte, sharing his story of how he became an Alive to Strive grant recipient. “I’d been sent home from the Ottawa Heart Institute and told to get my affairs in order. I thought — this is it; but a heart became available and here I am today.”
John’s experience with kidney disease is directly tied to that event. Six years after his transplant, he began to experience renal failure — the effect of the anti-rejection drugs he had been taking to keep his heart pumping.
“The team at the PRI [Progressive Renal Insufficiency] Clinic at the Ottawa Hospital told me that they wanted me to lose weight and they wanted to help pay for it.”
They put his name in for an Alive to Strive grant to see if he would qualify, and the rest is history.
Grant facilitates dramatic changes
John received a personalized training grant in 2013 that provided him with a free membership to a local gym of his choice. As a first-time grant recipient, he was eligible for personal training sessions, which equipped him with an understanding and the confidence to achieve his personal fitness and active lifestyle goals.
“I’m already burdened with drug expenses. At first it was unbearable. I remember I went to the pharmacy in Ottawa to fill my prescriptions after my transplant — prescriptions I needed to fill — and the bill came to $3800,” he said, his voice still displaying disbelief at the total.
The Alive to Strive grant removed the burden of yet another expense and facilitated John dramatically improving his health. In fall 2014, he received a second grant. He strategically chose a gym membership covering late October until April, so that he can capitalize on outside activities (such as walking) during the summer months. He goes to the gym a minimum of three times a week and applies the things he learned from the training sessions covered by his first grant.
“I feel much better. I’m down to about 245 pounds,” he said, explaining that at the time of his heart transplant he was a little over 300 pounds. His health providers would like to see him get down to about 210 pounds, a trajectory he is well on his way to achieving.
“This is definitely available to me because of the grant,” he said. “I am so grateful.”
Strength to face whatever the future holds
John is not out of the woods yet. He has been told if his kidney function drops below 15%, he will need a kidney transplant. The lowest it has gone down to-date is 17% and on his last visit, he was encouraged with a result of 21%. His next visit in May will determine whether this is a sign of recovery or if it was a fluke because of some other factor.
In the meantime, he continues to move towards his health goals and hopes his efforts will enable him to save his kidneys. Whatever happens, he will cross that bridge when he reaches it — encouraged by a good network of people, and his wife in particular.
“My wife is my support system,” he said, adding, “There are a lot of support systems. The Heart Foundation is a support system. The Kidney Foundation is a support system. But my wife is the one that is at me, telling me ‘you’ve got to do this for yourself’ — and she’s right.”
The 2015 Alive to Strive Race is being held on Sunday, April 26, 2015, at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility/Hog’s Back Park in Ottawa, Ont., Canada. Revenue from this race goes to support the Alive to Strive grant program. Visit www.alivetostrive.ca to find out more.