“It’s a Family Affair”
The Mary Coltart Story
Originally published in The Renal Review February 2006
Anyone involved with the renal community in the
Courtenay/Comox and Cumberland area is sure to be familiar with Bill and Mary Coltart. Mary has been a dialysis patient since 1997, but Bill is equally involved with the Cumberland Clinic, VIKPA and the Kidney Foundation of Canada. Kidney disease, after all, not only affects the patient, but the whole family.
Mary, the second of three girls, was born in the Kootenays. She moved to Vancouver at the age of twenty and began working as a secretary. At the time Bill was working in Port Hardy as a radio-operator for Transport Canada and the Coast Guard. Bill’s family lived in Vancouver, and Mary’s cousin, Sam, was a friend of Bill’s. Sam introduced the two of them when Bill was on a trip home.
“Bill and Mary Coltart in November 2005, the day after Mary underwent eye surgery.”
Eventually they knew it was true love and Bill and Mary decided to get married. They started planning a large wedding; however, Bill got cold feet and instead the couple eloped in Port McNeill on September 17, 1971. This was later followed by a wedding and large reception in Castlegar (where Mary’s family lives). Bill then transferred to Vancouver, where they lived for a time before heading back to Port Hardy. Once on the Island, Mary began working as a court reporter. Their first son, Bill, came along in 1974. Due to problems with the labour, Mary had to be airlifted to Vancouver, where little Bill was born. A short time later, the family transferred to Courtenay. They have lived there ever since.
In 1976, Mary was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Their second son was stillborn as a complication of the disease. Mary’s elder sister Helen is also diabetic. Their next son, Bob, came along in 1977. Because of the diabetes, and due to the problems with the second baby, Mary was once again airlifted to Vancouver for the birth. Both boys are now grown and live in Courtenay. Bill is getting married in May. Bob has three children: Paul, 8; Jessica, 4; and Bradley 2.
It wasn’t until 1997, just after Bill had retired, that the Coltarts became intimately involved with kidney disease. After experiencing some nausea and with blood tests showing her creatinine level to be over 1000 (60 – 100 is normal), both typical late signs of kidney disease, Mary was sent to see Dr Weir. He immediately started her on peritoneal dialysis. Approximately forty percent of all patients with kidney disease, including Mary, have acquired it as a complication of diabetes. Initially Mary was on the list for a transplant, but she is no longer. While on the list one of Bill and Mary’s sons offered to be tested as a donor (kidney disease affects the whole family), but Mary refused.
After about five years on PD, Mary had problems with her catheter and had to switch to hemodialysis. She initially dialyzed in Victoria and then changed to the Nanaimo Unit. Eventually, a spot opened up in Cumberland, where she currently dialyzes Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday afternoons.
In November 2005 Mary underwent eye surgery for a folded retina, also a complication of her diabetes. She has been unable to drive for some time due to her eye problems, but hopes to start driving again once her eye completely heals. She takes the HandyDart to dialysis, but because it only runs until 4pm, Bill needs to pick her up (that family thing again).
Mary enjoys watching TV, especially the food channel and her soaps “One Life To Live” and “General Hospital.” When not on dialysis she enjoys cooking and baking, chocolate/chocolate chip cookies being one of her specialties; she has even done some catering as a hobby. She also did embroidery for many years before her eyesight made it impossible.
March is national Kidney Health Month, so watch for both Coltarts who will be out each weekend manning displays at various locations in the Courtenay/Comox area. After all, kidney disease affects the whole family.