By Amanda Paul, volunteer correspondent
Peter Wechselmann isn’t a volunteer to provide advice, but rather to help Guelph patients with kidney disease understand they’re not alone.
Peter received treatment for kidney failure and then underwent a life-saving transplant.
In 2018, Peter started volunteering in Grand River Hospital’s renal clinic in Guelph. As a volunteer with the Transplant Ambassador Program (TAP), Peter provides patients with support and positivity while they receive treatment.
Peter shares his story with others to spark hope and encouragement for every patient’s journey.
Why did you start volunteering?
It wasn’t until after the transplant that I heard about the opportunity to volunteer with TAP. I felt that it was a role that was going to help others that were in my position.
I feel that if I had someone from the TAP program during my time as a patient, it would have helped prepare myself mentally and to have a better understanding of the journey I had ahead of me.
Having been a dialysis patient, what piece of advice do you offer the patients you visit?
I try not to give advice – however, I let them know that they’re not alone. I tell them about my experience and I think that helps to ease their mind a bit.
We do have a commonality of having experienced the same situation, however, my journey is going to be completely different than someone else’s. No one has the same story but it can be helpful knowing that there are people there to support you. I’m happy to provide that support.
What is the most rewarding part about your role?
It’s rewarding for me to see a patient that I’ve been seeing out in the community and hearing about their life after their transplant. Guelph is a close-knit community and running into a patient after their treatment or transplant and talking about their recovery is a great feeling. It’s nice to know that I was a part of their journey.
Is there anything that you find challenging with this role?
When I first meet patients, I find that some don’t want to open up about issues they may be facing. Obviously, I’m a stranger at our first interaction and I’m trying to refine my approach with how to have engaging conversations.
I’m learning that our conversations don’t necessarily have to be medical, they can be about almost anything. Sometimes speaking about personal issues is the last thing a patient wants to do – and that’s perfectly ok. There is a deeper connection with a patient once the conversations start flowing naturally.
What would you recommend to other volunteers?
I would say do it and do it genuinely. I go for my volunteer shift once a week. This isn’t a huge commitment of time and it’s something that I feel great value with doing.
I’m giving my time to a community that gave me so much during my time of need and that is something I’m very happy doing. You will not regret volunteering; you don’t have anything to lose.
To learn more about transplant from a TAP volunteer who has donated a kidney or received a kidney, please visit www.transplantambassadors.ca (opens in a new tab)