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Annick’s Story

A Kidney Patient Turned Passionate Volunteer

If you Google “Kidney Foundation Fundraiser Extraordinaire,” Annick’s picture will pop up.  And if your device has enough data, her story will not only inspire you to financially support the Kidney Foundation’s work, it will also educate you about kidney disease –the importance of maintaining healthy kidneys and need for more organ donors.

Recipient of a kidney transplant from her dad 20 years ago, Annick has spent the better part of her spare time since then working tirelessly to raise funds for the Kidney Foundation and promote organ donation.  Her on-going campaign started post-transplant when a co-worker at The Bay hung a Kidney Walk poster in the staff lunchroom.  Annick had never heard of the Kidney Walk and didn’t know that her work friend was mom to a little boy with kidney disease.  After checking out the Walk online Annick says, “I was on fire. This was something I had to do.” In ten days, she raised $1,100 and, arriving at the Walk with cash in hand, asked the first person she ran across where she should put the money.  That person is now BCY Board Chair Teresa Atkinson!

Bitten by the fundraising bug, Annick not only raised money for the ongoing Kidney Walks, she discovered the Foundation’s vehicle recycling program, (now called Kidney Car) and when her neighbour wanted to sell his car, he didn’t just donate it, he sold it privately and donated half the proceeds - $750.00 - to the Kidney Foundation.

To date, Annick has raised almost $60,000 and can’t wait to hit $100,000.  Or $250,000. “I have personally seen where the money goes,” she exclaims. 

When asked why she is so passionate about the Kidney Foundation, Annick says quite simply, “If the Kidney Foundation didn’t exist, I would be dead. Without the research the Kidney Foundation funds, I wouldn’t be here.”  Not only that, she is motivated by the help the Kidney Foundation provides for kidney patients themselves.

Annick’s relationship with kidney disease and subsequently the Kidney Foundation goes way back. At 18 months she was diagnosed with reflux nephropathy, which is basically a faulty valve problem in the ureter causing urine to back up into her kidneys instead of flowing into her bladder and out. A surgical procedure did not correct the problem and she spent much of her early years fighting urinary tract infections, catching every cold and flu that was going around and undergoing various treatments, once at Toronto’s Sick Children’s Hospital, and then, after moving to the west coast, visits to BC’s Children’s Hospital.  Because nephrology as a medical specialty was still quite new when she was diagnosed, knowledge about kidney disease was limited, and her treatment was primarily antibiotics for the infections, and yearly visits to the Nuclear Medicine Dept to monitor how her kidneys were functioning. 

By the time Annick turned 19, nephrology had come a long way and kidney transplants were a regular course of treatment for many patients. At 19, Annick had also aged out of the system at Children’s Hospital and needed a nephrologist who treated adults. She was referred to Dr. Adeera Levin who handled all her pre-transplant needs and helped Annick understand what her condition was all about.  “Dr. Levin was wonderful and really helped me.”

Annick’s first encounter with The Kidney Foundation was as a young woman with her first, low paying job. Her salary was $17,000 a year and her meds cost $320.00 a month.  Having no health insurance, her prescription cost was a stretch. One day she mentioned to her social worker that she didn’t have an extra $350 that month and would have to run up her Visa. The social worker arranged for The Kidney Foundation to cover her meds that month.  “That changed my life,” Annick says.  “That the Kidney Foundation cared enough about me to buy my meds – thank you is not enough.”

When she was scheduled to receive her transplant from her dad, the Kidney Foundation covered the costs to bring him to Vancouver from his home in Quebec. Through the social worker, the Kidney Foundation even covered the cost of a new pair of pajamas for him because, being unemployed, he couldn’t afford to buy a decent pair for his hospital stay. “Now that’s caring,” Annick says.

These personal encounters motivated Annick to connect with the Foundation’s program to supply comfort items to kidney patients.  Knowing that dialysis patients often experience cold feet and hands, this past Christmas she arranged to purchase 45 pairs of thermal socks that she took to the local unit along with a Christmas letter, co-written with Teresa Atkinson, that encouraged patients with financial difficulties to reach out to Kidney Connect and their social worker. 

Annick also works locally within her community, attending health fairs and searching out opportunities to promote the need for kidney health and organ donation. 

At the recently held Vernon Health Fair, she and her husband, who has been a great supporter of Annick’s dedication for many years, registered over 100 people as organ donors and met a transplant recipient who wanted information about starting a chapter in Vernon.  In addition, Annick met five First Nations women, one of whom shared that her daughter had died and donated her organs, including her skin, which helped the recovery of a young native man who had tried to commit suicide by setting himself on fire. 

This encounter led to Annick being invited to speak at the March 2018 Aboriginal Diabetes Conference. For seven years she had attended this event, giving out brochures and information about the high-risk relationship between diabetes and kidney disease. But the opportunity to speak turned the tide in relationship building and provided a much-needed opportunity to really spread the word within the Indigenous population about kidney health. For 45 minutes Annick addressed over 350 people, providing information and answering questions.

Public speaking to larger groups is quite new to Annick, but it’s something she has embraced wholeheartedly. “It’s different than doing radio or newspaper interviews. There, it’s only me and the one person I’m talking to. Same at a health fair booth – just small groups.  Standing in front of 350 people for the first time was really nervous-making. But it worked so well. I’m really excited about the positive response my information got.”  

Over the years Annick has received a number of awards and recognitions from the Kidney Foundation for her many contributions to the organization.  But, for her, it’s not about the plaques on the wall.  It’s about giving back to the organization that she says saved her life.

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