|Brian Stewart had been on a brutal dialysis regimen for a year in 2010 when his daughter, Stephanie, offered to give him one of her own kidneys. (DARREN MAKOWICHUK/QMI Agency)
CALGARY – As a dad to roughly 130 foster kids over the last three decades, Father's Day has always had special meaning for Brian Stewart. But its significance has been heightened the last two years after one of the kids he offered a chance at a better life to responded in kind.
A longtime diabetes sufferer, Stewart had been on a brutal dialysis regimen for a year in 2010 when daughter, Stephanie — one of three foster children Stewart and his wife Linda adopted — offered to give him one of her own kidneys.
"It was only for a year but it really took a lot out of me," he said of the dialysis. "It was about five hours a day, three days a week."
Seeing her dad in pain and weakened by the treatments, Stephanie, now 32, underwent testing in Toronto — where she was living at the time — which found her to be a perfect match for the donation.
"It's amazing that it happened, she went through so much for this," said Stewart. "She was the first one to go.
"As soon as she found out I needed a transplant she put her name on the list."
Scheduled for just before Father's Day in 2010, the surgery had to be postponed two months after Stephanie's liver enzymes were found to be elevated.
It went off without a hitch Aug. 26, 2010, however, and since then, Stewart said his life is now remarkably better, thanks to Stephanie's selflessness.
"For sure, there's no question about that," he said. "It saved my life, there's no doubt about it, I've said that many times.
"My quality of life, everything has been improved."
And Stephanie's life has improved, too.
She had to lose 50 pounds before doctors could do the surgery, which she has managed to keep off.
"She's still feeling good for it," said Stewart. "She's certainly maintaining where she's at and doing fantastic."”
And their relationship has improved.
"We talk on the phone more," he said. "And she comes home to visit twice a year, so we spend more quality time together."
Sitting with two infant foster children temporarily in their care, Stewart said plans for this year's Father's Day will likely be a low-key Sunday.
"If we ever see the sun I might have to barbecue," he said.
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