When Amherstburg residents Shawn Byrne and Jessica Bondy, along with their four children, take a virtual walk this September, they will be raising funds for an affliction that has hit very close to home — kidney disease.
In 2017, Byrne was diagnosed with kidney failure.
The rigours of hours of dialysis every other day, a process that takes five hours, including travel time to and from Windsor, have proven exhausting for the now stay-at-home dad who is unable to work in his previous tool and mould profession.
“Before I got kidney disease, I had no clue about anything like this,” Byrne said. “A lot of people think, because I’m a bigger guy, I’m six-foot-one and 280 pounds, people see me function as a normal human, but I’m far from normal when I go to dialysis.
“It’s really, really hard. I’m drained.”
Byrne, 44, cares for the couple’s daughter Leona, who is 18 months old, while Bondy works. He then heads for dialysis at 5:30 p.m., returning around 10:30 p.m.
Last year, Byrne made it on to the transplant list. He had been waiting for a year.
“I try not to live my life (waiting for the phone call that a transplant is available) because if I did, I’d go crazy,” he said. “I do everything as if nothing’s going on.”
The call came the day his mother died, telling him he was scheduled to meet the next day with the transplant team in London to determine his eligibility. He almost didn’t go to the appointment.
His mom, Patricia Byrne, fought cancer for 10 years and was one of his biggest supporters, encouraging him and Bondy to get married.
The couple has been engaged for four years but “with all my health issues, it’s put our wedding on hold,” Byrne said.
“One of her dying wishes was to see us get married. So, before she died, we were actually going to get married — on her death bed type deal — but it didn’t happen.”
But next year on Valentine’s Day, it will happen because after entering a Pay It Forward contest, the couple won an all-expenses-paid wedding at Ambassador Golf Club.
“The battles they have gone through, with Shawn’s kidney disease and more, have affected them both deeply,” said Diane Farquhar, client service manager at Ambassador Golf Club, in a news release.
“We felt they were very down to earth, fun and real,” Farquhar said of the couple who found out in May that they had won the wedding package.
Bondy wrote the entry for the contest, while nurses from the dialysis clinic wrote letters of support that talked about his struggles and what he goes through daily, Byrne said.
Struggling with the guest list, like most engaged couples do, is the only thing they have to do for the big event. Everything else is being taken care of by Ambassador.
“It’s a huge stress reliever,” he said.
Byrne and Bondy, 30, also recently found out they have been chosen to be the local ambassadors for this year’s Kidney Walk, modified to meet COVID-19 restrictions, being held Sept. 27.
The entire family, Byrne and Bondy, along with their blended family of Byrne’s sons Nathaniel Mannina, 16, and Xavier Byrne, 12, and Bondy’s daughter, Callie Yott, 10, and, of course, Leona, will walk together in Amherstburg.
Participants can walk virtually anywhere, anytime — that day or any day in September — raising funds for education, research, financial support and camp subsidies through the Kidney Foundation.
Visit www.kidneywalk.ca to register, fundraise or donate to support the local community or call 519-977-9211 for further information.