When I first met Elaine and Nino Mancini it felt like I had known them forever. They were at the Village Playhouse in Bancroft to see a show, they bought a 50-50 ticket from me, Elaine laughed and said they were very lucky, and then a few minutes later, when their ticket was pulled, we made eye contact, she nodded, and I got chills.
They donated their winnings back to the theatre, which was actually a donation to Hospice North Hastings and at intermission we chatted again.
Elaine and Nino, together 12 years now, are a perfect match. Elaine’s exuberance perfectly balances Nino’s quiet warmth. They both smile a lot, they hug everyone and even a short conversation with these two links back to solving problems. They have connections and they are connectors.
There is an efficiency with how they identify problems and jump to a solution. It feels like these two are here to help make the world a better place – that’s what they do; what they have always done. And now, in a strange twist, it’s Nino who needs help.
Nino, now 72, was an electrical engineer who enjoyed a successful career with the Canadian Standards Association. He traveled the world focused on protecting total strangers from unsafe products.
Twenty years ago, while taking a medication for arthritis, his kidneys were damaged. And now, with his kidney function declining, he is searching for a living donor.
Nino has had a rich, full life. He was a member of the International Electrical Commission, representing Canada and in his spare time he skied – on water and on snow and he also enjoyed skydiving. In the 70’s he bought a cottage on Paudash Lake and it has become a special place for him over the years. He’s developed a reputation as the go-to guy in his cottage community – always happy to help take down a tree, deal with nuisance animal or help troubleshoot plumbing or electrical issues. He’s the guy everyone calls when something goes wrong.
And now, with his kidney function falling to 13 per cent, Nino and Elaine are taking some time to focus on finding a living donor.
“The hardest thing now is the lack of energy,” Nino confesses. “I’m used to being active and my brain says, ‘be active,’ but my body is stopping me from lifting, pulling, from doing what I could do before.”
Nino will be on dialysis within the year and then he will be put on a very long list to wait for a donor and that’s why Elaine and Nino have started looking for a donor themselves.
“We don’t blame the system, we’re not victims,” Elaine explains, “We are problem solvers and it’s a strange feeling to have to ask for help but we are. That’s what we need to do now.”
Elaine and Nino are sitting together on a sofa at the Playhouse. They’ve come back to the theatre to share their story with me and they laugh, smile and hold hands as they talk about life and love. Time stands still as they share beautiful memories. We talk about everything that matters to them and eventually, we get back to the quest to find a donor.
“Our system relies on the donor card,” Nino explains. “As long as I can help, I will look for a donor myself. At least I will help to raise awareness and it’s not always about success – it’s about trying.”
Nino and Elaine have been trying to find a donor for a while. They tell everyone they meet about their need and Elaine posts messages online and at her synagogue and at his church – it’s just part of how they live now.
“It is hard to ask for help,” Elaine says. “But life starts beyond your comfort zone.”
The comfort zone is part of why finding a living donor is so difficult. Nino had one offer already, but it didn’t work out. The donor was not a good match, so the process was halted.
A perfect match for Nino will be a living donor with O, B or B+ blood. St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto takes care of all the testing and the emphasis is placed on safety for the donor. The donor needs to be healthy today, but future health issues need to be ruled out so that the donor will not face issues down the road. Elaine and Nino are willing to cover all the costs for transportation as well as any lost wages for testing and of course, for the duration of the procedure and recovery if a match is found.
Nino’s success rate increases if a kidney comes from a living donor and this is really what he is hoping for but Nino understands that asking a friend or a stranger for a kidney is a big deal.
Luckily for Nino, Elaine loves talking to strangers and she’s getting comfortable asking for the help.
As the conversation goes on they talk about meeting online through a dating site. Elaine laughs and says they were not a match on paper – but in real life, they make the perfect team. And even with failing health, and as his energy becomes depleted, Nino’s love for Elaine is so clear. It feels like these two met for an important reason and it’s hard to imagine what life would be like if they had not made a connection.
They’ve enjoyed being together – travelling, feeding the less fortunate, working with youth and even sponsoring a couple of donkeys at a sanctuary in Milton. And now, they have decided to view Nino’s quest for a kidney as a new adventure that will provide them with one more opportunity to make a positive impact in the world; to meet people, to have important conversations and to raise awareness for those who are willing to be living donors.
“We are living for today,” Nino says. “We will work every day for this.”
Anyone interested in helping Nino Mancini can contact Hospice North Hastings in Bancroft at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 613.332.8014. Information collected by Hospice North Hastings will be shared with Elaine and Nino as it is received and together, we will try to help Nino find his donor.