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Our Stories

Brother receives life-saving transplant from sister and is “gifted with the ability to dream again”

April is Be A Donor Month. Register to be an organ donor or check your status here.

Toronto, April 26, 2018

By Ana Gajic

Jason Rumball
Jason Rumball (photos courtesy of Jason Rumball)

As siblings, Jason Rumball and Rachelle Nurnberger always shared a close bond. But when Rumball was told at age 23 that he would need a kidney transplant and Nurnberger stepped forward to donate her kidney, their bond grew even closer.

Rumball had been born with one kidney and Spina Bifida, a birth defect that occurs when vertebrae don’t form properly around the spinal cord. This had led to bladder and kidney problems throughout his life.

“Living with only one kidney goes from bad to worse over the course of your life,” he said. “Although I was closely monitored by doctors as I grew older, I still felt sickly and weak as my one kidney gradually failed to remove toxins from my blood.”

By age 22, Rumball needed dialysis in order to survive. Multiple dialysis appointments a week often kept him from a robust social life, travelling, and the ability to work full-time. He had to plan his life around the treatments.

“It was difficult for me to watch him go through dialysis,” Nurnberger remembered. “I hate the sight of blood so I couldn’t even go with him to the appointments to keep him company.”

Though she had a young daughter at the time, Nurnberger decided to be a living kidney donor for her little brother.

Jason and Rachelle Nurnberger

“It was like a light bulb went off at some point – I don’t know whether it was fate, but something told me everything would be alright,” Nurnberger said.

On his 23rd birthday, Nurnberger told her brother about the gift she would be giving him: a life-saving transplant.

“It was the most unbelievable thing,” he said. “I’d been through many hospitalizations in the past and they were beyond my sister’s control. Now that she had the ability to help, she was going to free me from the kidney transplant waiting list and the restrictions of dialysis.”

The two siblings went through their surgeries at St. Michael’s Hospital, and both procedures went well. Nurnberger was happy to hear that Rumball felt an immediate relief after the transplant. “I had been gifted with the ability to dream again,” he said. “My energy, my appetite and my attitude were so much better right away. Within hours I felt so good that I was ready to run a marathon.”

Rumball, now 41, is a radio host in Stouffville. Thanks to his transplant, he was able to finish school, start working and get involved in the community. He lives with his sister, who cares for him and checks up on his health.

“I want people to know that organ donation saves lives,” Nurnberger said. “It helps people truly enjoy a life.”

April is Be A Donor Month. Register to be an organ donor or check your status here.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 29 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

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