A memorial fund has been established in Grande Prairie which hopes to help bring more knowledge, expertise and trained medical professionals around peritoneal dialysis to the area.
The Jennifer Henson Memorial Fund has been established in honour of the late Grande Prairie resident, who passed away in January at the age of 42 from complications brought on by severe kidney failure and diabetes.
She was the wife of long-time Grande Prairie Storm play-by-play announcer Jeff Henson.
Prior to her passing, Jennifer had been battling with kidney failure since late 2019, after first being diagnosed with diabetes in 2004. It was at that time in 2019 she and Jeff had to begin weighing their options about how Jennifer was going to receive her dialysis treatment.
“At the time, there was no nephrologist up here in Grande Prairie,” explained Jeff. “We had to go to the University (of Alberta) Hospital in Edmonton to see a kidney specialist.”
Jeff says that specialist gave them two options for Jennifer to receive her treatment.
The first was to receive hemodialysis, for which a clinic is established in Grande Prairie, but was full at the time. Jeff says choosing such an option would have meant 3-4 trips per week to Edmonton for he and Jennifer.
They were also given the option of having peritoneal dialysis, which could be administered at home four times a day.
Each treatment, Jeff says, took about 30 to 45 minutes. With home care options limited in the area, though, it did mean Jeff needed to provide care for Jennifer around the clock, limiting his ability to work full time.
Having made that sacrifice, Jeff is hoping this endowment fund can help get training and resources needed for nurses, home care aides and other medical professionals to provide more options for area residents who may be faced with a similar decision.
Jeff adds the money would also be donated in Jennifer’s name to a potential peritoneal dialysis clinic here in Grande Prairie, which he says is being explored.
“The first step is awesome, that they are looking at having a clinic like this in Grande Prairie,” said Jeff, also noting that since Jennifer’s diagnosis, a nephrologist is now practising in Grande Prairie.
“Now the next step is having families be able to stay here locally.”
Jeff adds having more resources and training for home care professionals would be ideal, so other families won’t have to go through what he and Jennifer did.
“Even just myself having to pull away from work full time, to stay home to give Jen her treatments,” said Jeff. “My biggest fear is that another family is going to have a situation where one of their loved ones is facing kidney failure.
“I loved Jennifer with all my heart, and I was willing to do anything for her, which included staying home to take care of her. But I know that might not be, unfortunately, an option for other families.”
The fund also hopes to raise money for the installation of a bench and plaque in Jennifer’s memory at Derek Taylor School, where she worked as an educational assistant until her diagnosis of severe kidney failure in 2019.
“She was really loved by her pre-school kids she worked with,” said Jeff. “She was really loved by the other staff members as well, too. It seemed natural to have a memorial bench and a plaque in her honour at the school.”
The fund has been established through the Community Foundation of Northwestern Alberta. A link to donate can be found here.