Winnipeg firefighter donating kidney to fellow firefighter

Two firefighting friends in Winnipeg will fight a different kind of battle together as one gives the other a much-needed organ.

More than 10 years ago, firefighter Kyle Schmidt was hospitalized and was diagnosed with a kidney disease called IgA Nephropathy. Two years ago, he found out he needs a new kidney.

“I am on dialysis; my kidneys don’t work,” Schmidt said in an interview with CTV News. “It’s hard to fathom that for most people. But, overall, I think I’m okay.”

The news that Schmidt needed a new kidney made its way to Russ Reimer’s Steinbach fire station. Reimer was standing around the water cooler when his co-workers broke the news of Schmidt’s illness.

“I turned around immediately and I said, ‘my Kyle Schmidt?'” Reimer said in an interview with CTV News.

The pair both are Winnipeg firefighters, and have known each other since 2012 through other firefighting work. Reimer said he had recently seen Schmidt and did not know his kidneys were not working.

Reimer immediately picked up his phone and texted Schmidt.

“I just said right away, like instantly I hadn’t checked with my wife or nobody, I said, ‘well man, I’d give you my kidney’.”

Schmidt shared information with Reimer on how to sign up.

“It was sort of classic fireman style where it’s like barge in there and just OK, can we go this afternoon?”

Schmidt and Reimer began the process but, during the pandemic, donation operations slowed.

In 2021, there were 15 living kidney donor transplants – eight fewer than the pre-pandemic average.

“It would have been nice to get done a year ago, but with COVID it just wasn’t a reality,” Schmidt said.

Despite the wait, Schmidt says health-care workers helped him keep working as an inspector and allowed him to work on his post-secondary education.

“This whole thing is having hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

On Thursday, the two will go under the knife for the transplant surgery, exactly one month after Reimer got the call saying the surgery date was set.

Now, Schmidt wants others to register to donate their organs.

“We could be saving so many more lives with organ donation.”

Transplant Manitoba tells CTV News that, as of Tuesday morning, close to 61,000 Manitobans had registered to be organ donors.

Manitobans looking to donate can go to signupforlife.ca.

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