TAIT ON 8
Cam Tait Edmonton Sun May 13
Janelle Pentelechuk warmly looked at her mother Sylvia Wesner during a 30-minute visit about Mother’s
“I don’t think my mom would want to return the Mother’s Day present I gave her this year back,” Janelle said. “She gave me the gift of life, and now I was able to give it back to her.”
You can certainly say that again.
It was 1999. Sylvia was diagnosed with Primary Biliary Cholangitis (PBC) — her immune system was destroying her small bile ducts.
She continued her daily duties of raising two girls —Janelle has a sister, Stephanie — with her husband Wally and working part-time.
Doctors said it was nothing serious and could be controlled with medication. And it was: until 2010.
“Things took a nosedive and my health started to deteriorate and the doctors said I would eventually need a transplant,” Sylvia said.
Both Stephanie and Janelle had the right blood type to help their mom. Stephanie started a family with husband Chris.
“It wasn’t an issue of being fair for Steph, but that because she had a young family she wouldn’t be eligible to be screened,” said Sylvia.
J Janelle, a nurse at the Mazankowski Heart Institute, walked into a new chapter of her life last summer when she married her fiancé Nick.
“When we first starting dating, I told Nick there might be a chance I might give my mom my liver, and he was very supportive of it. Just the other day he said our marriage was too easy and needed a challenge,” Janelle said with a chuckle.
But once a mother, always a mother.
“The most difficult thing I ever had to do was let Janelle give me a part of her liver,” said Sylvia, 55. “As a mother, you protect your kids and try to keep them safe. That was probably the biggest step of the whole process.”
Janelle nodded in unconditional agreement. “I was always in complete agreement. Why wouldn’t I be? She’s my mom and she made me.”
Sylvia went on the transplant waiting list in October of 2017. Janelle made contact and made arrangements to start preparing herself. Blood work, a CT, two MRIs and a series of cognitive tests followed.
“It was a Thursday when I went in to review things with my surgeon to see if I was a complete match,” said Janelle. “I was … and, they said they would operate on both of us in 10 days.”
Sylvia shook her head, remembering the news. “I said ‘No, we’re not ready.’ But then I thought ‘When would I be ready?”
Still, there was a concern. “There was a risk when I was opened up they would find something in me and I wouldn’t be able to give my mom my liver,” said Janelle. “They started on me first, and if If I couldn’t give my mom a bit of my liver, they wouldn’t even open my mom up.”
March 6 was the day when both Sylvia and Janelle were wheeled into the pre-operating room together.
“The first thing I said was ‘Ow, ow’ and then I asked if my mom got my liver,” said Janelle.
She did, the doctors answered.
The family attend Zion Community Baptist Church and were overwhelmed with support from others. Meals came to the Wesner house for six weeks, and Sylvia said other people who didn’t bring a meal called to see if they could. Their church family offered to help in other ways.
“We were engulfed in prayer,” said Sylvia. “Friends of friends of friends were paying for us. Even in Australia.”
And their families. Wally put his dental practice on hold. Stephanie handled keeping friends and family informed of her progress. Nick adjusted his work schedule to come home early to help.
“She was at the hospital daily to support and encourage us. It is important to us that we acknowledge our families roles,” says Sylvia, who just was cleared by doctors this week to drive.
It’s been two months and while both women are healthy, they understand they aren’t in the clear yet.
So they embrace each day, like Mother’s Day, as a gift.
Sylvia offered a smile. “I was just joking with someone today that Janelle is covered for Mother’s Day for the rest of her life.”
Slyvia’s life. too.