Kim Aziz, now 53, grew up just outside of Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island. She went to the University of New Brunswick, where she obtained an undergraduate degree in civil engineering. She then moved to Ottawa to pursue a master’s in structural engineering from Carleton University. It was during these early years that she was diagnosed with kidney disease.
“I was in my early 20s when I found out. I went to see my doctor and they thought I had gallstones. After a few tests it was evident that this was not the case. Shortly thereafter, I was told I had polycystic kidney disease,” recounted Kim.
Polycystic kidney disease is a genetic disorder that causes multiple cysts to form in the kidneys. Despite being diagnosed at a young age, Kim didn’t begin having any problems until the age of 37. Four years later, at the age of 41, Kim had reached 0% kidney function, and needed to be put on dialysis.
“My daughter, Surraya, was 11 at the time, and was competitively dancing all over Canada, the United States and abroad. I remember learning about the different types of dialysis and thinking to myself peritoneal dialysis is for me—I can still travel, take care of my daughter and work. I didn’t want to lose my independence,” she explained.
Kim was on peritoneal dialysis for three years, following her daughter to competitions all over and continuing to work as a structural engineer for the Federal Government.
“I have watched hours upon hours of dance competitions with a bag of fluid between my knees, I have drained on trains and taken my dialysis cycler with me on trips. When I was working, I would fly to Calgary where Baxter would ship my fluid, and I would drive with my fluid from Calgary to Vancouver inspecting bridges. It wasn’t easy, but I did it,” Kim said.
In 2007, there were complications surrounding her peritoneal dialysis treatment, and she had to begin home hemodialysis. Kim took the training to do nocturnal home hemodialysis, but shortly after began her treatments during the day.
“I found it tough,” she remembered. “I was on dialysis five to six hours a day and I was not able to get out as much. It was a darker time of my life.”
In 2013, at the age of 51, things started to look up for Kim in a big way: she received a kidney transplant!
“I remember it like it was yesterday. My parents were visiting me at the time from PEI. I was dialyzing when the phone rang, and the doctor said they had a kidney for me. I thought my mother was going to fall on the floor when I told her. I then called my daughter who at the time was going to school in Toronto, and she couldn’t stop crying. It was a happy time.”
Kim’s transplant was a success, but the new kidney was not eager to “wake up” and start working. Kim was in and out of the hospital a great deal in the months following her transplant, but her team of doctors never gave up. Six months and eight biopsies later, Kim’s kidney started to function.
“I couldn’t believe it when my urine output suddenly started to increase. So many doctors has gone to bat for me, had never given up on me. Especially Dr. Zimmerman—I would not have a kidney today if it was not for her,” said Kim.
In October 2013, after her transplant, Kim joined the Let’s Get Moving group. Being a peer-support volunteer for the Kidney Foundation for many years, Kim has always found benefit in speaking with others who have kidney disease. She was also looking for a way to get out of her house and get active.
“I like the classes because the instructor adapts the program to your personal needs. I don’t have the confidence to go to the gym or an exercise class, but at the Let’s Get Moving group everyone has the same issues and we are able to talk about them. I have made some good friends through the group.”
Last year, Kim participated in the Alive to Strive race with the goal of walking the 1K. This year, she plans to complete the 5K surrounded by both family and friends, including her daughter, Surraya.
Kim Aziz is a mother, a fighter, a kidney transplant recipient and now the 2015 Race Ambassador for the Alive to Strive Race! Cheer on Kim and her team “Mama K’s Kid(neys)” at the Alive to Strive Race on Sunday, April 26.