For more than 10 years, Edmonton's Janet Machtoub has waited for the good news – a kidney that will renew her life and deliver her from chronic health problems and nine hours of daily dialysis treatment.
Her best chance yet is about to arrive.
Her sister, Laila Maaen, a Syrian refugee in Lebanon, is prepared to save her sister's life by donating a kidney. She and her children are now in the final stages of the refugee process – and have been told by the Canadian embassy in Lebanon to get ready to travel.
"She's giving something from her heart, from her body," said Ms. Machtoub, 35, in an interview about her 45-year-old sister.
"I will be so happy when they enter Canada. … And I'm so happy for them because they will enter a good country," she added.
The reunion of the two sisters – each giving the other a new lease on life – is all the more remarkable because of how quickly it all came together; it points to the fast-tracking of Syrian refugee applications as Canada tries to process and transport 25,000 refugees by the end of February.
The Mennonite Central Committee in Alberta submitted an application on Oct. 19 and raised $30,000 to sponsor Ms. Machtoub's widowed sister and her four adult children currently living outside of Beirut.
The family, which is registered with the United Nations refugee agency, was interviewed on Nov. 27 and underwent medical checks three days later. Barring any serious medical issues, they are preparing to fly to Canada any day once their visas and airline tickets are issued.
"That will be a record," said Orlando Vasquez, programs director at the Mennonite Central Committee and himself a refugee who arrived in Canada in 1984 from war-torn El Salvador.
Earlier, the group had estimated it would take up to a year to bring Ms. Maaen and her three sons and a daughter – between the ages of 18 and 27 – to Canada.
The two sisters have endured their share of hardships.
Ms. Maaen's husband died of a stroke in 2012 as civil war engulfed Syria.
The family's home outside of Damascus was damaged and caught fire after a bombing.
She and her children made a plan to get out of Syria to neighbouring Lebanon, explained her sister.
The family also feared that the Syrian army would pressure the older sons to fight for the government in a brutal war that has claimed more than a quarter of a million lives.
Their escape took them to the capital, Damascus, from where they hired a taxi to drive the family to the border. They crossed into Lebanon in 2013 and lived in a tent in a rural area with no running water or electricity. Later, the family of five moved into a single room in a building outside Beirut with the help of a family friend.
Ms. Machtoub went to Lebanon last summer to see her sister and other family members.
The older woman had often told Ms. Machtoub over the years that she wanted to travel to Canada and help her sister by donating one of her kidneys. But Ms. Maaen's husband, according to her sister, blocked her from doing so. This time, Ms. Maaen was determined to make it happen.
"First, I denied it. I said, 'No, I don't want to.' And she said, 'No, I want to give you my kidney,'" Ms. Machtoub recalled.
Eventually the two sisters travelled together to a medical clinic in Beirut. The blood tests showed that her sister's kidney would be a match, Ms. Machtoub said.
Like thousands of Canadians, she has been anxiously waiting for a kidney.
According to the Kidney Foundation of Canada, 4,500 Canadians were waiting for an organ transplant in 2013 – and of those cases, almost 80 per cent were waiting for a kidney. If Ms. Maaen were to donate one of her kidneys to her sister, the likelihood of success after a year would be between 90 per cent and 95 per cent.
Ms. Machtoub moved to Canada in 1999 to join her husband, Houssam. After the birth of their second child in 2001, her kidneys shut down. In 2002, a kidney transplant failed. She was back on the organ-transplant waiting list in 2004 at the University of Alberta Hospital and has stayed there ever since.
The hospital offers what it calls the most comprehensive range of transplant procedures anywhere in Canada. In Alberta alone, there are more than 600 people waiting for an organ donation. Every year, 70 patients die waiting, according to the University Hospital Foundation.
Ms. Machtoub has been unable to work and has missed out on key moments in the lives of her children.
"The first word of my daughter and my son – these things I missed them all because I wasn't with them. I was in the hospital all the time," she said. Her husband was in and out of work as he cared for his wife and and children.
Since 2004, she has used a dialysis machine set up in her home. High blood pressure, infections and fatigue are just some of the chronic problems she still faces.
But now there is hope through her sister's gift.
"It's good for me and her – so we both survive now," Ms. Machtoub said.
She hopes the transplant will restore her health and allow her to go back to school one day and study to become a dialysis nurse.