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Maria's Story

A model patient, a warrior, and a renal hero.
It was July 21, 1976. Even though that was 40 years ago, mom Maria Carnevale remembers her first day on dialysis like it was yesterday. She remembers two doctors by her side of the chair, holding her hands as it started. "I was so scared, I cried. I had never seen dialysis before. No one spoke Italian, so no one could explain it to me." mom recalls. "I used to clean the machine in those days,” mom laughs.

Karen Bardi remembers that era too-she was a renal nurse at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary back then. "Maria is quite unique-a real survivor," she says. Staying in touch over the years, Karen believes Maria has done so well because of "her positive attitude". Karen remembers how tough it was when her patients were "horribly nauseous" in the first hour of their dialysis. "We've come a long way since then," she notes. Treatments and support for those with kidney disease have improved considerably since the 1970's. The Kidney Foundation of Canada has contributed to those improvements by investing more than $110 million into life-changing research in the past five decades.

In her second year of dialysis, Maria received a kidney transplant and remembers taking 49 pills a day. "My stomach has always been very strong. I am careful with what I eat." mom says. When her transplanted kidney failed mom was back onto dialysis within three months. Al Kimick, a chaplain for Alberta Health Services' outpatient dialysis clinics, notices she has made the best of her long journey with chronic kidney disease by staying focused on family, food and her faith." Maria has been fighting this big foe with a patient, gentle spirit," he says.

Wrapped in warm blankets, Maria quietly greets nurses and patients at the dialysis clinic she attends three times a week. "After all these years, the doctors, nurses and other patients-the team here is like a second family for me," she says. 'Of course, my own family has been such a comfort too, " Maria smiles, remembering her son Dino and daughter-in-law Juvy at her bedside when twice she became so critically ill, she landed in intensive care.

Born in the town of Torano Castello, in the boot tip of Southern Italy, Maria remembers warm days spent among grapes, olives, cherries and fig trees on her grandparents' farm "I feel strong when I eat good food," she laughs.
"Italians have stronger blood because of olives, wine and pasta you know! "Amid laughter, Al quietly notes, "another part of Maria's success has been following the advice of her dieticians and the renal experts." She nods, adding some gentle suggestions for those newly diagnosed. “Watch your food, watch what you drink, be patient and kidney disease won't be too scary for you."

These days Maria takes three pills a day, noting that "everything is so much better than when I first was diagnosed." While Dr. Ron Hons, who began his nephrology practice in 1975, calls Maria "a model patient", Al Kimick calls her "a warrior, and a renal hero. Maria just smiles and settles in for a chat with Karen - the nurse she's known for 40 years.

Sadly, mom Maria Carnevale passed away on September 1, 2019. She will be greatly missed by her family, especially her son Dino and all who knew her. Mom Maria has inspired so many people during her journey on this Earth with her kindness, gentleness and good heart!  R.I.P. mom Maria.
Maria Carnevale with the personnel of the outpatient dialysis clinic