When Daniel and his son Hunter Kablutsiak suited up for Eskimo Point the pair were sharing more than jersey logos in the 2023 Terence Tootoo Memorial hockey tournament in Rankin Inlet this March.

A year before, the Kablutsiak family had been on a search for a kidney donor for Hunter, now 16. Hunter was battling stage 4 kidney disease – now stage 5 – with his kidney operating at 16 per cent. Dialysis was scheduled to begin when he hit five per cent.

Hunter was diagnosed in September 2020 with a genetic kidney disease called juvenile nephronopthisis. For the most part, he has been able to live life regularly, still playing hockey and hunting, but he’s taking 10 pills a day to treat his condition and suffers from low energy levels at times.

The family put out public pleas for people to sign up to be kidney donors, as the process to approve a donor can take up to a year.

Daniel had a blood type match, but there was one problem.

“I was overweight,” said Daniel, 48, who at the time was 274 pounds. “Then I worked my ass off for the whole year.”

He lost 75 pounds over the past year, getting himself below 200 pounds. He accomplished it by exercising, watching what he ate and support from wife Francine.

And on his birthday this past March 15, on the first day of the Terence Tootoo hockey tournament as he and his son suited up for the same team, he got the official, final word from the doctors: he was approved to be Hunter’s kidney donor.

“I’m pumped up,” said Daniel. “I’m really, really happy for my son. I don’t care about myself, but as for my son, donating a kidney so he can be a regular teenager without having to take these 10 pills a day and stuff like that, while being active and an aggressive hockey player… I just can’t wait until his strife is over.”

When Daniel told Hunter the news, the teenager’s energy changed.

“His body language lifted up,” said Daniel. “Happiest face I ever seen on him. That little laugh, smiling, glow in his face. That was his reaction. That was my, I guess, turning point of my hard work exercising. It paid off.”

The transplant is scheduled for June 22. Daniel will spend a couple weeks in the hospital, while Hunter may spend up to three months. The timing couldn’t be better, said Daniel, as hunting season is poor over the summer and Hunter should be coming back right in time for good hunting and hockey.

Daniel said he did it all for the love of his son.

“I was determined,” he said. “Lots of work, lots of walking. Challenging at times mentally, but for the love of my son I just kept pushing myself, and it’s paying off now.”

For any other parents or family members in a similar situation, Daniel recommends the power of prayer and knowing that anything is possible if you put your mind and heart into it.

Despite his kidney issues – and Daniel dislocating his shoulder during the hockey tournament – Eskimo Point earned silver in the B division of the 2023 Terence Tootoo Memorial.

“I’m looking forward to playing with him again in the future,” said Daniel.

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