In the fall of 2001, Marie-Eve left her hometown of Kapuskasing, Ontario to attend an exchange program in Spain. There she would learn a new language and continue her high jump training. The first couple of months were challenging due to the language barrier, but nothing could prepare her to what she was going to face. After four months abroad, Marie-Eve experienced a chain of severe headaches, dizziness and noticeable weight gain. Early January, she noticed having trouble breathing going up the stairs and being very dizzy in class. At that moment, she decided to consult a medical clinic in Spain.
Entering the hospital, Marie-Eve’s blood pressure was 220/147, she had gained 50 lbs of water, and her platelets and haemoglobin were dangerously low. After a series of tests, doctors concluded that Marie-Eve had kidney failure due to a rare blood disorder called Atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (aHUS) but were hopeful that her kidneys would start working again. As her condition was deteriorating, Marie-Eve was given a rather bleak prognosis and both her parents were called in to Spain. Following many blood transfusions, plasma exchange and dialysis treatments every second day to keep her alive, Marie-Eve was finally strong enough to make the trip back to Canada on February 14th 2002.
The months following her return were very difficult as Marie-Eve had 4 relapses of aHUS and lost all chances for her kidneys to start working. She received between 700 and 800 blood transfusions and had numerous treatments of plasma exchange (plasmapheresis) as well as continuing dialysis treatments 3 times a week. Marie-Eve was hospitalized in Ottawa for weeks at a time at every relapse. The combined effect of the illness, medication and treatments caused Marie-Eve to lose her appetite and muscle mass. By August 2002, Marie-Eve was down to 103 pounds and was tied to a wheelchair;not even able to wash her own hair. The rising athlete training 2 hours a day in a gym was no more, Marie-Eve was now incapable of even doing everyday tasks on her own.
In August 2004, Marie-Eve started a new kind of treatment and things finally started to improve. This new treatment was nocturnal hemodialysis; a form of dialysis that is being done overnight for an average of 8 hours, 6 nights a week, instead of 3 times a week, 4hrs each. Marie-Eve had extra energy after the very first week of nocturnal hemodialysis treatments. By the Friday, she was able to wash her hair by herself for the very first time in close to 3 years! Marie-Eve slowly gained her strength back; starting with 20 seconds on the bike, to walking up the stairs, to playing volleyball, making the University of Ottawa track and field team, to running her first 5K in 2009. In July 2010, after 8 long years of struggling with kidney disease, aHUS, and dialysis, she finally achieved her dream; Marie-Eve competed at the 2010 National Track and Field Championships in high jump! (“A stunning comeback to an elite sport” – The Star, August 2010).
Overcoming such large obstacles as illness, treatments, medications, and the restrictions imparted by these conditions was a tremendous challenge for Marie-Eve. At time, just finding something to eat was a nightmare. But it is in these dire moments that the smaller difference can change everything. For Marie-Eve, it was nocturnal dialysis that offered the opportunity to do more than to survive, an opportunity to strive. Marie-Eve believes that while each patient must find the dialysis treatment that works best for them; the “Alive to Strive Kidney Fitness Project” can offer the opportunity to other patients to strive regardless of the hardships of chronic kidney disease through the kidney fitness and wellness grant programs.
Marie-Eve graduated from the University of Ottawa with a Nursing degree in June 2013 and keeps training and competing in high jump thanks to nocturnal home hemodialysis. Marie-Eve believes that “Alive to Strive Kidney Fitness Project” will be a great tool to help other dialysis patients to pursue and achieve an active life, as well as help patients reach and maintain a healthy weight.
“The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s determination.” – Tommy Lasorda