Three families feel the life-saving impact of organ donation
Terry is alive because someone decided to be a donor
Terry loved holidays and other time off with his family.
In 2001, he developed a cold and a heavy cough. A bit stubborn, he put off seeing a doctor until one night he couldn’t sleep and could barely breathe.
An x-ray showed that his heart was twice its normal size. After 11 days in hospital, he got the devastating news: he needed a heart transplant.
Like the Tinman in The Wizard of Oz, Terry needed a new heart.
“It completely changed our life,” Terry says. “The kids were scared. You never knew from day to day what would happen.”
He was told he couldn’t be put on the transplant waiting list until his condition worsened.
All the typical family memories that Terry wasn’t sure he’d live to experience.
“The thought’s always in the back of your mind, Am I going to die before I can get a heart transplant? But my attitude was, I’m going to fight, I’m not just to going to give up.”
There followed a decade of watching his health, worrying and undergoing regular evaluations. Finally, his condition had worsened to the point Terry was put on a waiting list for a transplant. The following months were difficult. He didn’t realize until later that his heart was only functioning at 15 per cent of normal.
Terry and Selena hope their story will convince people to be organ donors.
The news came that a donor heart was available. Surgery would be the next day.
“It felt great to wake up and know that you have a new heart, and that you can walk your daughter down the aisle, and hold your grandkids, and that there’s more life ahead to live.”
“Saskatchewan is a very giving province,” says his wife Selena, who has been able to watch Terry rebound over the past five years. “It doesn’t cost anything to give your organs when you don’t need them any more. You don’t need your organs when you’re gone.”
Donovan got his second wind, because someone decided to be a donor
Donovan was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was two months old. Six weeks later, his uncle – who also had CF – died while waiting for what would have been the second double-lung transplant in Canada.
The coating of liquid that would develop on the inside of his lungs made it increasingly hard for him to breathe as he grew up. When he wasn’t home sick or in hospital, he was a pretty normal kid growing up in Prince Albert.
Hear Donovan and his Mother tell his story of survival and renewed hope.
But the unrelenting progressive nature of his disease kept eating away at his health. In 2008, Donovan was 25 years old, near death and in an induced coma to keep him stable.
“You keep hoping that the time you’re seeing him isn’t going to be your last,” says his mom Beth. Her family’s hopes and prayers were answered when news came that a donor with lungs that were a match for Donovan was being kept on life support to allow their organs to be given to others.
Donovan awoke, not realizing that lungs had come available and he had undergone the transplant. He had to adjust to the idea of having a future to look forward to.
Donovan’s mom Beth held out hopes for an organ donation.
Donovan calls organ donation “an expression of love to somebody else that you don’t know. And it’s a very special gift that they’ll treasure forever.”
“The most important thing is to make your wishes known,” says Beth. “Had that perhaps not been discussed, we would not have our son today.”
Errin needed a kidney. She found her perfect match.
On their third date, Errin told Chris she was on dialysis. The Saskatoon agricultural research manager never expected he would end up being her perfect match.
Errin’s father wanted to donate a kidney, but couldn’t for health reasons. Several other friends and family offered, but none of those options worked out either.
For Chris, offering to donate just made sense to him.
“When you love someone, and see that they’re sick and they need your help, I think anyone would do what I did. I think we have an obligation as humans to help each other. It wasn't hard at all to make that decision.”
“If I did not have her for the last 60 years of my life, how could I ever have looked back and think I made the right decision?”
When he saw Errin struggling with her health, Chris couldn’t think of a good reason not to donate a kidney.
Find out more about organ and tissue donations and talk to your family about your wishes.