Fighting to win


If there’s a hospital in Ottawa, Kevin Cabey has likely spent time there. If there’s a method of dialysis – he’s likely experienced that too. Kevin has also had a kidney transplant and the majority of his limbs have suffered amputation. But are any of these medical setbacks cause for unhappiness? According to Kevin, these are all “just bumps in the road of life.”

Kevin’s story began in the winter of 1998 when he noticed he wasn’t able to keep up with the walking pace of his friends. Later that week, he got on the scale and noticed he had gone from 170 to199 lbs. This weight gain prompted a visit to his doctor, who completed various tests and sent him to The Ottawa Hospital, Riverside campus.

It was quickly determined that Kevin’s kidneys were only working at 20 per cent and failing rapidly. As Ottawa was experiencing a devastating ice storm outside, Kevin was experiencing his own personal disaster. He had been living independently in downtown Ottawa, enjoying an active social life and playing sports mere hours ago and now he lay in a hospital bed with a foreboding medical future. “I’m fiercely competitive and wasn’t going to let this get me down,” says Kevin.

Two days after Kevin’s 29th birthday, in May 1999, Kevin began his first of many dialysis treatments. He began with peritoneal dialysis with three exchanges throughout the day and one long exchange overnight.

Winter of 2000 brought the amputation of Kevin’s toes – they had become necrotic from various infections caused by complications with his diabetes. This experience likely prepared Kevin mentally for the next medical mountain he would have to climb – amputation of his left leg.

“I accepted that I would be losing my leg,” Kevin states. “This was just another wall to climb and overcome.”

After the surgery, Kevin went on to live independently. He continued his dialysis exchanges and climbed the 20 steps to his apartment daily with only one leg. The summer of 2002 brought infections in his fingers and the amputation of five fingers.

On March 26th, 2003, Kevin wasn’t feeling well probably due to an undiabetic meal of fried food he had just consumed. He went to bed at 9 p.m. and awoke in the intensive care unit of The Ottawa Hospital, General campus on March 29th. Kevin had lapsed into a coma and had suffered a heart attack. Damage was caused to the frontal lobe of his brain – home to planning and problem solving. Kevin realized if he didn’t start to manage his diabetes more effectively he would be putting himself in very serious danger.

In the summer of 2003, Kevin went to Saint-Vincent Hospital, a 348-bed complex continuing care hospital. And on a Monday morning in January 2005, he received a life changing phone call. It was The Ottawa General Hospital notifying him that a kidney match had been found in Toronto and an ambulance was on the way to pick him up. Within 45 minutes, Kevin was being prepped for a kidney transplant. Being on dialysis for six years had counted as wait time on the provincial transplant list and now the days of dialysis exchanges were coming to an end.

After recovering from the transplant, Kevin went to Saint-Vincent Hospital’s sister facility, the Élisabeth Bruyère Health Centre. There, a team assessed Kevin’s viability to live independently and created a care plan to help achieve that goal. It was determined that the main challenge Kevin would have to overcome is better management of his diabetes.

The next suggested step for Kevin was a move to the Robin Easey Centre. The goal of the Centre is to provide clients and their families with the information, skills and experience needed to facilitate community reintegration and independent living. Kevin moved there in September 2005 and will remain at the Robin Easey Centre learning to care for his diabetes and redeveloping the skills required to live independently.

“Kevin has risen to the occasion regardless of the challenge he faced,” states friend Ken Evraire, Sports Anchor, A-Channel. “He is a football player, a warrior and a young man who warrants the greatest amount of respect a man can bestow on another.”

The richness of the fall season and the hope for new beginnings coincides with Kevin Cabey’s goal to return to living independently and pick up his life where he left off seven years ago. “If I open my eyes in the morning, then I’ve won.”