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Susan Duncan to be honoured at weekend kidney walk

It was Christmastime 2013, and Lloyd Garner and his wife, Gen, had just brought their three adopted children -- ages four, five and six -- home from Lithuania.
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It was Christmastime 2013, and Lloyd Garner and his wife, Gen, had just brought their three adopted children -- ages four, five and six -- home from Lithuania.

Home was Bridge Lake, 150 kilometres north of Kamloops, and the going was good -- for just about a year, anyway.

Late in 2014, Garner said, he began feeling lethargic.

"I just started having low energy," he told KTW. "By February, I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep. I took time off work. In June, I resigned from my job and my wife and I prayed about it."

In July 2015, doctors diagnosed Garner, now 54, with kidney failure and he was put on a donor wait list that could have taken anywhere between 12 months and 10 years.

Enter Susan Duncan.

The erstwhile Kamloops Daily News city editor, now a communications staffer with Interior Health, met Garner's wife through work. Gen is employed in human resources at the health authority and Duncan profiled the Garner family in an internal IHA newsletter after they adopted their three Lithuanian children.

"I just heard through the grapevine that her and her husband were adopting three kids from Lithuania, and I thought, 'What a cool story,'" Duncan said.

"They were going to adopt one child, then the people in Lithuania said, 'We've got these three siblings -- would you consider three?'"

The Garners, of course, did not say no.

Fast-forward about 18 months; Duncan, by chance, was on an elevator at Royal Inland Hospital with Gen, who was carrying a blanket.

"I asked her why she had a blanket," Duncan said. "She said it was for Lloyd. She said he was on dialysis. She said, 'Oh yeah, he's downstairs, come and meet him.'"

Duncan obliged and met briefly with Garner.

"It was quick -- maybe three minutes," she said. "Then I was leaving and I said, 'Let me know if I can do anything for you, short of giving you a kidney.'

"He said, 'I'm A-positive.' I said, 'Oh God, I'm A-positive.' So I went back to him and said, 'Well, I better get tested.'"

That took about 10 months, Duncan said, but she was eventually deemed a match. Surgery took place last summer. Duncan said she was in and out in a matter of a few days.

Garner's recovery is taking a bit longer, which is normal, but the progress is undeniable.

"I'm able to interact more and play with my children," he said of the three Lithuanian adoptees, who are now eight, nine and 10. "My energy is slowly coming back."

Duncan is being honoured this weekend at the Kamloops Kidney Walk -- the first organ donor to be recognized at the annual event.

Garner and his family are travelling to Kamloops for the walk from their new home in Salmon Arm. He said he is excited to see Duncan honoured.

"That is absolutely fantastic and so well-deserved," Garner said. "She's an amazing lady -- really, such a giving, loving, wonderful person.

"She's the one that saved my life. She gave me my life back."

Duncan, meanwhile, has been deflecting praise.

"I feel kind of embarrassed," she said. "The last thing I want is for people to say, 'Oh, wow, how great are you to give this kidney?' Really, how great are the Garners for taking this family in?

"It was so sad to me that Lloyd couldn't be a full, active dad."