“I felt better immediately.”
After undergoing a double organ transplant at the age of 25, the first thing Erin Rogers remembers is the overwhelming feeling of relief.
“As soon as I woke up (from surgery) and was off morphine, I no longer was thirsty,” she said.
“I had had so much damage, I wasn’t able to eat properly, stand up, even sit up, for a lot of years.”
Suffering from multiple health issues, including diabetes and kidney failure, Rogers spent much of her youth bedridden.
“It was torture,” she recalled.
“I couldn’t see, I was blind at times … They talked about amputating my legs. It was awful.
“When I was sick, I did nothing. I just lied there.”
Rogers was put on an organ wait list for 10 months, and in 1996, became the seventh person in B.C. — and one of the youngest — to receive both a kidney and pancreas transplant at the same time.
Last weekend (Sept. 18), marked 20 years since Rogers had her life completely changed by her new organs.
“I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t have lasted for more than a few months, in my opinion,” said Rogers, who is now 45.
“Everything has improved since my transplant.”
With a new lease of life, she was able to get out of bed each day, and pursue her passions of horseback riding, and music.
Born into a family of musicians, Rogers says on days when she felt well enough to get out of bed, she would often head downstairs in her family home to play piano. Following her transplant, she then picked up the guitar, and hasn’t looked back.
She’s played in multiple bands over the last two decades — including a disco band Polyester, and the Erin Rogers Band, where she wrote original songs — but now, she takes great pride in her current group, The Brookswood Country Band.
Made up of Rogers as lead singer and acoustic guitar; her brother, Mark Rogers, on bass and background vocals; Darren Chambers on drums and background harmony vocals; Mike Pugh on lead guitar, banjo and mandolin; and her husband, Brian Brands, on cowbell, tambourine, and sound, the group entertains diners at Langley’s local pubs, playing covers of everything country, from Sheryl Crow, to Keith Urban — and Roger’s favourite — Miranda Lambert.
“I’m grateful that I can do it. It’s pretty cool that you can go out and perform in front of hundreds of people sometimes,” Rogers said.
“I don’t want to speak for everyone, but a lot of people think, ‘Wow, you guys are really good.’ Then when they hear the inside scoop, they fall over. I’m very proud, I’m just happy. I’m happy to be in a drama-free band relationship with people I love. My husband is there almost every gig, and that just makes it awesome.”
But it hasn’t always been easy. There are days when Rogers still gets spells of dizziness and has trouble eating, or needs to sit down on a stool while performing.
“I always worry that people think I am lazy, because I look really healthy, I always have. So there’s some people I will tell (my story to), but it’s very, very hard,” she said.
“A lot of times when I’m singing, I’m sort of zoned out, and I just try not to pass out. That’s just a fact, and that’s how it is when I’m walking my dog or when I’m at the grocery store.
“It’s really tough. I focus on how much I love my music. I love my band, and I love my bandmates. The music comes easy because I love it.”
Brookswood Country Band’s next live gig is on Sept. 30 at the Murrayville Town Pub, 22070 48A Ave.
Kidney walk in Fort Langley Sept. 25
There have been many medical advances since Erin Rogers received her double organ transplant in 1996, but the need for organ donors is still great.
According to BC Transplant, so far in 2016, there are more than 500 British Columbians on the wait list for a transplant, and last year, 21 people in B.C. passed away while waiting for a donor.
As of August, 2016, there have been 296 transplants completed in B.C. this year, and 6,868 transplants performed since 1968.
And with one in 10 Canadians suffering from kidney disease, the need for organ donors continues to grow.
For those wanting an opportunity to help, this Sunday (Sept. 25), the Kidney Foundation of Canada is hosting a kidney walk in Fort Langley to raise funds and awareness about the importance of organ donation and kidney transplants.
According to the Kidney Foundation, there are 3,500 people in B.C. currently on dialysis, and about half will die waiting for a kidney transplant.
The kidney walk begins at the Fort Langley National Historic Site at 10 a.m., and takes participants on a picturesque 2.5 km trek through the Fort village.
To register, or for more information, click here.