Navigating kidney failure as a young Bay Street professional

At age 32, Alley Adams was a communications professional at McCarthy Tétrault, one of Canada’s largest law firms. She had achieved her childhood dream of working in Toronto`s financial district while leading a team of professionals and travelling the world to speak at conferences. Alley’s job was relentless and demanding and she loved every minute of it.

In November 2018, Alley’s world came to a screeching halt when she found herself in the emergency room on the brink of a heart attack.

“It is very difficult to describe, but I felt really off and having had type one diabetes for over 30 years, I knew something was wrong.”

She underwent a series of tests to identify the cause of her serious condition. In January 2019, she received a call from the Multi-Care Kidney Clinic at UHN. At her first appointment, Alley learned that she had end-stage kidney disease and required a kidney and pancreas transplant.

“My kidney function at that time was 25 per cent and I was of the mind that I was going to do everything in my power to keep it there.”

Alley was now battling two chronic illnesses – type one diabetes and end-stage kidney disease. Luckily, she had the experts at the Multi-Care Kidney Clinic to help her navigate the road ahead. Led by Dr. David Cherney, this is the only clinical program in Canada that integrates cardiology, renal and endocrine care for patients with diabetes in a single clinic visit.

“At the Multi-Care Kidney Clinic, I have a dedicated team including nephrologists, cardiologists, dieticians, pharmacists, nurses, endocrinologists and nurse educators who all work in tandem. By the time I arrive at the clinic, they’ve aligned, allowing for productive discussions and immense confidence in my care. I am incredibly grateful to be managed by this team.”

Alley is currently number one on the list for a kidney-pancreas transplant. With this procedure, she will be cured of both type one diabetes and end-stage kidney disease.

While she waits, Alley is pursuing the next best option and looking for a living kidney donation. She realized that finding a donor would be nearly impossible without help. In a video posted on LinkedIn in August 2020, Alley tearfully opened up to her professional network, shared her story and asked for support. This wasn`t easy but she felt it was necessary.

“In my industry, being vulnerable and admitting that I needed help was nerve-wracking. Throughout my professional career, failure was not an option and for the first time, I had to admit publicly that I had failed and my health stood to bear the brunt of that.”

To her amazement, Alley’s video was shared by more than 400 people, viewed over 70,000 times and picked up by CTV News. The CEO of McCarthy Tétrault, Alley’s employer, sent an email to the entire staff sharing her story and asking for support. People who Alley had never met began applying to donate their kidneys.

“The amount of support that I have received has been nothing short of overwhelming. To have the gift of life offered to me by complete strangers over and over again is a testament to the immense good and generosity that people possess and has been remarkable to witness.”

Alley has chosen to forego dialysis for as long as possible to keep some freedom in her life while she awaits a transplant. She is grateful to have a medical team that supports this decision. Instead of dialysis, they are helping her manage her condition through diet and experimental treatments.

“I’ve met a lot of doctors in my life, and it’s very rare to be engaged and have a seat at the table; to work in partnership with your doctors, and decide together what you need and what is best for you.”

The Multi-Care Kidney Clinic has provided a beacon of hope during Alley’s challenging journey with kidney failure and has made things easier. With their support, Alley has continued to work in a job she loves, travel the world and pursue her passions.

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