Ted Puska is well-known around Chemainus and Ladysmith for playing and coaching hockey during many of the early years at Fuller Lake Arena, playing baseball and softball, coaching baseball for 25+ years and running four marathons. He’s still in great shape, but now facing his greatest challenge yet.
Born and raised in Ladysmith, Puska, who’s now 66, worked as a shipper at the Chemainus Sawmill before retiring on Jan. 1, 2015, and familiar to many as a local DJ for 42 years across the region from Duncan to Parksville, needs a kidney transplant soon.
“I’ve kept this quiet for many years, but have finally come out with the announcement I have chronic kidney disease and have now hit Stage 5 with 15 per cent kidney function or less,” he confirmed.
Puska’s Glomerular Filtration Rate that measures the level of kidney function is currently at 9. He’s hoping for a kidney transplant later this year before he has to go on dialysis.
“Fifteen years ago people when they got down to 12 (GFR), they were put on dialysis,” Puska pointed out. “Things have changed over the last 15 years or so.”
A normal GFR is considered 90 or higher. Puska’s rate has been steadily dropping during regular check-ups every four months from a rate of 30 at age 60.
“I was lucky to find out I had that problem,” he conceded.
Many factors have been cited for a low GFR.
“I hit a couple of them pretty good,” Puska noted.
“One of them is dehydration. I’m the poster boy for not drinking enough water.”
The second characteristic on the list in Puska’s case is high blood pressure that’s persisted for many years.
Now that it’s been determined he’ll need a new kidney as quickly as possible, he’s begun the process of trying to find a matching donor.
Puska is an O+ blood type.
If a direct match can’t be determined in due course, Canadian Blood Services has a Kidney Paired Donation program that’s been highly-successful. People seeking kidneys from across the country who have willing donors that aren’t a match can essentially swap places with others to create matches.
Organs are fortunately more widely available as a result of donations stemming from the Humboldt hockey team’s bus tragedy last year.
There’ll still be some anxious moments for Puska until his actual operation comes – possibly as early as the fall. He’s been seeing the kidney team in Nanaimo and preparing to live in Vancouver for three months after a transplant is eventually done.
With that in mind, Puska figures it will cost between $12,000 and $15,000 for him and wife Heather to live in Vancouver during his recovery and post-operation monitoring. Youngest son Jeff has set up a GoFundMe account for anyone who’d like to help out.
“The expense is something I never planned for when I retired,” Puska indicated.
“I don’t feel good about asking people for money.”
He didn’t want to sell his 1966 Beaumont that he searched far and wide to acquire – documented in a previous Chemainus Valley Courier article – but thought of a plan with a local connection for those offering financial assistance.
Every donation is obviously important, Puska conceded, but he’s going to make a draw among contributors of $40 or more for his Doug Bodger game-worn Pittsburgh Penguins’ hockey jersey.
“I can part with something,” said avid car and sports memorabilia collector Puska. “As an incentive, let’s offer that out there as a goodwill gesture.”
He hates to part with the jersey since Bodger is the only player born and raised in Chemainus to make the National Hockey League. “It’s kind of neat,” he said. “Maybe that’s why I never parted with it. but I’ve got to get the word out there.”
The jersey is from Bodger’s rookie year with the Penguins in 1984, distinguishable from the rubber numbers and lettering, and believed to be one of only two in existence since jerseys weren’t mass-produced for games then like they are today.
Puska acquired the jersey in 1989 at a card shop in Nanaimo. “I ended up trading for a bunch of unopened cards I had,” he recalled. “We both did good. I got a neat piece of memorabilia and he sold the cards pretty quick.”
Puska turned down $800 for the jersey 15 years ago from a Minnesota collector.
While the kidney search intensifies, people can make a contribution to Puska’s cause by going to the www.gofundme.com site and entering his name in the ‘search’ tab to find his home page. He added those still without a computer can always send an email to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Puska said he’ll keep an eye on the amounts coming in and enter names for the draw.
He can’t wait for the day when this is all ancient history and to echo the sentiments of what doctors have told him.
“When you get your new kidney, you’re going to feel like a million bucks,” Puska related.