Irene Mills is a traditional weaver

Heart of Our City: Planting the seed of life (VIDEO)

Altruistic acts in the community can be found in all sizes and forms — even the shape of a kidney.

Altruistic acts in the community can be found in all sizes and forms — even the shape of a kidney.

March is National Kidney Month, and by coincidence, one Prince Rupert resident has gone under the knife to give her kidney to a complete stranger who lives across the country.

Irene Mills moved to Prince Rupert four years ago. Her first taste of the city was in the hey day of the ‘80s, when she remembers the Performing Arts Centre had just opened, and artists were excited to have a space where their talents could thrive.

An artist herself, Mills is a traditional singer and Haida weaver. She lived in Haida Gwaii until she was seven-years-old. Her father had been the airport manager in Sandspit, and they often moved around the province for his work.

Six years ago, she was living in Skidegate reading through Facebook posts when she saw that one of her niece’s friends was in need of an organ from an O Positive donor.

“I have been a blood donor since I was 18, which is a long time ago now. I knew I was O Positive so I volunteered,” Mills said. Through a Facebook message she asked what the young girl needed — a kidney.

Mills knew she could live a robust life with just one kidney. The seed was planted once during a conversation she had with a choir singer who was helping her improve her voice. The woman told her that she had donated a kidney and she seemed fine.

“My dad only had one-and-a-half, not a full two kidneys. My now late brother-in-law also only had one. I had in my mind that people can live very well with only one. When I offered, I had that sense of knowing that people do very well,” she said.

The seed had been planted and when the opportunity came to sprout, she signed up to be a living donor.

But she wasn’t a match. Instead of letting the moment of altruism fade, Mills persisted. She signed up for the Kidney Paired Exchange Program, run by the Canadian Blood Services. Four times a year, the program looks for possible matches.

With annual check-ups to see if she remains in good health, Mills was finally matched with a recipient — someone she will never know due to privacy restrictions in the organ donation process.

Recovery can be six to eight weeks, and Mills, who is the community relations coordinator for Nexen’s Aurora LNG project, and who has her own soap business Suds n Stuff, has been preparing for time off work.

But for a little extra support, her supervisor set up a GoFundMe page with the goal of raising $2,500 to support Mills while she recovers. Nine days after the page went up, they had already overshot that goal at $2,885 with 27 donors.

Asking for help from others wasn’t something Mills intended when she signed up. She’s an independent woman who raised two kids, and she admitted she’s had trouble adjusting to the kindness from the community.

Although the goal has already been reached and continues to grow, Mills said each extra penny will go toward the recipient in helping them with their healing process.

This act of kindness, is only one facet Mills’s character. For more than a decade, she has been a traditional weaver with her work catching the attention of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

The museum commissioned her to create a basket in three stages. At the time, she would soak the bark and weave in the morning, go to work, then come home and weave in the evening.

The other side to Mills can be found every Saturday, at the Moose Hall where she sets up shop at the Last Minute Market to sell her soap products, made from locally sourced and organic materials. She has even learned to reduce sea salt, brought to her by a fisherman friend, to add to her products.

Usually a private woman, Mills has adopted the road of public awareness with her quest to donate her kidney to someone in need.

As of March 2017, there are more than 500 people in need of a kidney transplant in British Columbia alone.

“I hope the attention to this is that seed gets planted in others. If you look into kidney donation and the length of time that people are on waiting lists, it’s substantial. We do need, I think, more people across the country, thinking about this,” she said.

 

Heart of our City

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wet’suwet’en pipeline supporters speak up

“Protesters get one side of the story and they stand up with their fists in the air.”

We stand with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation

Blockades, demonstrations do not represent the majority, grievances hijacked by special interest groups

Bachrach rejects calls for police action against demonstrators

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP says only way out of crisis is “true nation-to-nation” talks

Coastal GasLink pipeline investor committed to closing deal despite protests

Developer TC Energy Corp. — formerly TransCanada Corp. — is to remain the operator of the $6.6-billion pipeline

Fashion Fridays: The 8 best quality online stores! Shop the ultimate sales

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

We stand with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation

Blockades, demonstrations do not represent the majority, grievances hijacked by special interest groups

Petition seeks to remove local police department from Lindsay Buziak murder case

American woman starts online petition in hopes of helping Buziak family

Health officials confirm sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

Woman remains in isolation as Fraser Health officials investigate

Study says flu vaccine protected most people during unusual influenza season

Test-negative method was pioneered by the BC Centre for Disease Control in 2004

Saskatchewan and B.C. reach championship round at Scotties

British Columbia’s Corryn Brown locked up the last berth in Pool B

B.C. lawyer, professor look to piloting a mental-health court

In November, Nova Scotia’s mental-health court program marked 10 years of existence

COLUMN: Not an expert on First Nations government structures? Then maybe you should calm down

Consider your knowledge about First Nations governance structures before getting really, really mad

One dead in multi-vehicle collision involving logging truck on northern B.C. highway

DriveBC says highway expected to remain closed until 8 p.m.

Most Read