Idling in her car on Montreal Street, Linda Palikko waited nervously to see if she was going to pass the ultimate marriage compatibility test: Did she have the right blood type to give her husband, Mika, one of her kidneys?
“I pulled off to the side of the road while the nurse from the Living Kidney Donor Program looked up my medical history,” says Linda of this pivotal moment.
It was the first of many tests she and Mika would have to pass in their healthcare odyssey. Thankfully, Linda received a green light that day and was able to move to the next stage of testing.
At the age of 19, Mika Palikko was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. “My kidneys failed as a result of that,” he says, “I was never on dialysis. I was lucky.” But in recent years Mika’s creatinine levels had climbed. In February 2018, Mika’s doctors told him he needed a transplant.
“That’s when I said ‘Test me!’” says Linda and the “running the gauntlet” phase of the organ donation journey, which took almost a year, began. “They check for everything. I was waiting for test results for Mika, waiting for test results for myself.” Linda says the waiting and not knowing if she’d get yet more green lights was the hardest, “That part I found was very emotional.” Finally, in December, “the hospital called to say, ‘We’re going to surgery.’”
February 26, 2019, the day of the transplant, marked the dawning of a new day in the couple’s lives. Today, the pair is in good health and “back to the things we like to do,” which includes long walks with their Dachsund, Cookie, near their home in Napanee.
“I am very grateful to have the Living Kidney Donor Program here in Kingston,” says Linda, “It’s given us our life back.” Mika says he feels “fantastic.” After carrying sixty pounds of water weight for over a year he says “I’ve got a 35 year-old body back. I had to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe!”
Linda and Mika are grateful for the staff at KHSC, “Everyone is very supportive, caring, compassionate and professional.” The lion’s share of Mika’s gratitude, though, is reserved for his “incredible, beautiful wife” and the extraordinary gift she has given him.