KAMLOOPS — March is Kidney Health Month.
Even though the month is drawing to a close, the more than 36,000 Canadian being treated for kidney failure won't simply forget their health concerns when the month ends.
Nearly 76 per cent of Canadians waiting for a donor organ are waiting for a kidney.
WATCH: Full report by Jill Sperling
Nick DeCicco found himself in that very situation 20 years ago, when diabetes caused his kidneys to fail. Fortunately for DeCicco, he received the kidney he was waiting for, a perfect match from his own sister.
"After the transplant everything changed," DeCicco said, adding he has been taking good care of the gifts his sister, Mary Scerbo, gave him 20 years ago: a kidney, and the chance to keep on living.
"She's always teasing me about, you know, 'make sure you look after my kidney for me,' and I say, 'well, as long as you don't want it back, I'll take good care of it.'"
In 1997, after a year on dialysis, DeCicco was told he would need a kidney transplant.
His family got tested, and Scerbo was a perfect match. Without hesitation she agreed to donate one of her kidneys.
"There was no thought at all, I was doing it," Scerbo said, adding, "If somebody would have told me a year earlier that I was going to donate a kidney to somebody, I'd say, 'yeah, right!'"
Feb. 10, 2017 marked 20 years since the kidney transplant. While DeCicco still faces challenges related to his diabetes, he has been able to live a normal, healthy life.
"I was able to continue working," DeCicco said. "I retired from the City after 37 years. My life was normal, all kinds of activities, and really nothing slows you down. The only limits that I had were what I put on myself."
While DeCicco got his life back, Scerbo got her brother back. Their bond has grown even stronger since the transplant.
"I think we're closer," Scerbo said. "We keep an eye on each other. He calls me and we're always concerned, 'how are you doing? Let's meet for a coffee.' We get together quite often."
The Kidney Foundation of Canada states there are more than 4,500 Canadians waiting for an organ. Many won't find a donor as easily as DeCicco.
Recalling their own experience, the brother and sister now encourage others to become organ donors.
"The reward is awesome," Scerbo said. "I was treated like a hero in the hospital, I really was. They couldn't do enough for me. Just to see the results I think that I would do it again if I could."
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