Marcel Noel poses for a photo with his granddaughter, Aislynn, who lives in Alberta. After spending the past five years in need of a kidney transplant, Noel received one on Christmas Eve.
CORNER BROOK — Marcel Noel and his family are celebrating what they consider the greatest of all Christmas gifts this holiday season — a kidney.
The 61-year-old Corner Brook man has spent the past five years receiving dialysis every three days. It has also been the number of cancer-free years the family has counted down for him to be placed on a donor list.
Once a very active man, who was a familiar face on Grenfell Campus of Memorial University as part of the maintenance team, Noel has been slowed physically by his health and the restrictions of constant dialysis.
He lost his first kidney to cancer in 2002. A portion of the second was taken in 2007. A year later, he was left without either one. He had to be five years cancer-free before being eligible to be a transplant recipient. That passed in October.
The family prepared for what they understood could be a long wait. Then, the phone rang about 6 a.m. Christmas Eve. Noel thought it was a co-worker of his wife Bev, looking for her to bring in coffee that morning. From what he heard of the conversation from upstairs, he knew it was something different.
“I thought, there’s no way this can be about my kidney,” he said, while recovering in hospital in Halifax, N.S.
He had to board a plane in Deer Lake just four hours later for the surgery. He dropped Christmas presents off to his son Christopher said his goodbyes, extended his holiday wishes, and received his good lucks.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Christopher said, still in Corner Brook anxiously awaiting his father’s return. “He popped into my door at like 6:30-7 o’clock in the morning, dropped off gifts on Christmas Eve, and he was like, ‘I am going to Halifax to get a kidney.’
“I was in shock,” he said. “I had those warm fuzzies all over. I was pretty excited.”
Christoper said he felt his father’s nervousness that morning, but Marcel didn’t admit to being so. Marcel said he is used to surgeries — considering he had gone under the knife for his kidneys three times and another quintuple bypass heart surgery.
Marcel said it was only the night before Christmas Eve that he was telling some friends that he hoped, some time in the new year, he would receive a kidney. Never did he imagine it would happen so soon.
It may have come just at the right time too. When being prepped at the hospital, his creatinine level was found to be 1224. That is extremely high, but it also has another significance. The transplant was done on Christmas Eve — 12/24. There are many who don’t believe in coincidences, especially considering his last name is Noel.
Bev said the nurses have been calling him “Père Noel.”
“It really is a Christmas miracle,” she said.
His stepdaughter Crista Brake was nearly overcome with excitement Friday when talking about the gift they all received.
She said her stepfather has been remarkably positive throughout his health issues ... always putting others ahead of himself when it should have been the other way around. She said the transplant, and a new lease on life, could not have happened to a better man.
“There was no concern for himself at all, and he has always been that way,” Crista said. “He would always make sure everybody else was OK, and telling us not to worry about him.
“He is just a really giving person.”
The surgery went really well, and the compatability has gone smoothly so far. If everything continues to go well, it will be no more dialysis — something that has become so routine, is kind of hard to imagine for the family.
“Right,” Marcel said. “No more dialysis. That will be nice.”
Christopher said, for the first time in years, he believes his father when he says he is doing well.
“Just to hear him say it,” he said. “He will never really tell you how he is doing, because you know how he really is doing ... This time, now that he has a kidney, he is actually telling you he is doing better.”
With that new lease on life, his family is looking forward to just getting back to being able to do the simple things they have been prohibited from doing with him. For Christopher, that is having a game of catch.
“We tried sometimes, but he would get too tired after just a few minutes,” he said. “I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it is something that is a huge memory for us.”
Marcel agreed. He is also looking to book a vacation to Calgary, Alta. to spend time with his daughter Robyn. It is part of his plan to get back to travelling, something he always loved.
It is still one step at a time, but right now, it is hard not to dream big. After all, they just went through one Christmas miracle.