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Elora couple a perfect match in love ... and kidneys

Emma Smith donated her kidney to her partner Ben Doerksen, starting the process just a few months after meeting
Ben Doerksen and Emma Smith have both fully recovered from a transplant operation after Smith donated her kidney in November 2022.

ELORA – An Elora business owner has given her partner the gift of a lifetime: a kidney. 

This is despite Emma Smith, the owner of Lost + Found Cafe in the Elora Mews, only knowing and dating Ben Doerksen for just a few months when she began the process of seeing if she’d be a match for him as his kidneys failed.

“There was really no why for me, I just felt this natural pull that this was something I was here to do,” Smith said in a phone interview. 

With no known history of kidney disease in his family, Doerksen, , co-owner of a landscaping business, was first hospitalized in spring 2021 with symptoms that eventually manifested as kidney failure. 

He began dialysis that August, four hour sessions five times a week, and began “the adventure” to find a donor, including being on the deceased donor list.

In 2021, 1063 people in the province were on the kidney donation waiting list according to Ministry of Health’s Trillium Gift of Life Network website.

The two would meet in October 2021 and begin dating shortly after. 

Come January 2022, Smith had already begun the process of screening to see if she was a suitable donor, something she kept from Doerksen for the time being. 

“(The relationship) was still pretty new at that point … she wanted to be sure that there was information to share before she did share,” Doerksen said. “That was certainly part of this very surreal kindness as I began describing it because it was not someone I knew very long before they were talking about being a potential donor.”

Smith acknowledged this was a big commitment for someone she only knew for a few months but everything was telling her to at least try, considering people sometimes donate to complete strangers. 

“Ben is one of the most generous, humble, kind individuals I know and I’m lucky enough to be able to call them my partner and the one that I love,” Smith said. “The way I view life is you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, you don’t know what’s going to happen when you cross the street. So like, let’s just go for it and see if I could be a match.” 

Smith ended up being a perfect match for Doerksen, not just relationship-wise. 

“It felt beautifully serendipitous for sure,” Doerksen said. “I remember our team saying it’s rare that they find as viable a match in friends or potential donors who are not related to the recipient.”

This also meant he would be off the donor list that can take some time and essentially had a two year turnaround from diagnosis to recovering from transplant surgery, which took place on Nov. 16, 2022. 

Nearly 10 months from surgery, both are feeling relatively back to normal after taking time off to recover. 

Both are now advocating for people to consider being a living kidney donor or to register as an organ donor in case of death. 

Smith explained the process was easier than expected and supported by a full team of doctors, social workers and therapists to answer any questions, plus it can be an anonymous process. 

“If anyone has any hint of curiosity about donating to lean into that and to check it out because so many people out there need it and it is something that truly changes their lives,” Smith said. 

The two are still happily together, living together in Elora and have no plans of changing that anytime soon. 

Doerksen said she doesn’t hold her life changing donation over him. 

“I joke about that on her behalf but she’s far too sweet a woman I think to ever joke about that to me,” he said. 

The couple will be participating in and have a team for the Kidney Foundation’s walk in Guelph in October to raise money for a cause now close to their hearts.

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Keegan Kozolanka

About the Author: Keegan Kozolanka

Keegan Kozolanka is a general assignment reporter for EloraFergusToday, covering Wellington County. Keegan has been working with Village Media for more than two years and helped launch EloraFergusToday in 2021.
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