It didn’t take long for Amy Willoughby’s Father to become a hero. He realized he wasn’t going to make it while he waited for a lung transplant, he decided to donate many of his organs when he passed. As a result, 5 people are alive today.
“He and I discussed it several years ago” explains Brenda Willoughby who lost her husband last May. The couple learned a lot of the process when a family member passed away who was on life support and donated a kidney “we really learned a lot from them, as in picking a time frame , to say I want to be on life support for no longer than this amount of time, we went to a lawyer and made our wishes known” Brenda said.
Amy remembers the heart break of losing her Father to a lung disease while waiting for a transplant himself. She thought she was prepared, “When I first heard about it years ago,you research every possible thing on it, you brace yourself and you feel like you’re so ready for it and accepting it, but you’re never ready, you will never be ready” But knowing that her Father lives on through organ donation to five people, both kidneys, both eyes and a liver making a huge difference to complete strangers makes it easier to accept.
Amy was one of the guest speakers Wednesday morning at the Civic Centre to take part in the Organ Donation Awareness campaign. There are currently over 1,600 people in Ontario alone waiting for a transplant of some kind, but donors are few and far between. “A lot of people think filling out their driver’s license is enough, but it’s not” explained Tannis McMillan, from the Kidney Foundation. “You have to go online and register at beadonor.ca it takes just two minutes or less” McMillan said that conversations with your family goes a long way in getting your wishes of organ donation fulfilled “All it takes is a protest from one of the family members to say , “no I don’t want Mom’s heart to be donated or my Dad’s eyes donated and it stops there” McMillan stresses telling family members what your intention are in case of being put on life support or die.
It’s a scary thought for most people, but for Amy Willoughby it only makes sense to donate, “you don’t need them after your gone, you really don’t, but it could enhance and in many cases save the life of someone”
Reg Beaudette , who recently received a single lung transplant emotionally told his story starting off with , “I shouldn’t be here today… if it wasn’t for an unselfish act of someone I never met” Beaudette recalls the fear of hearing he needed a transplant in 2010 and how the experience affected his life and that of his wife Cathy.
When placed on a transplant list, the doctors require you to be no more than a few hours away from the hospital where the surgery will be performed. In Ontario, that means Toronto or London. Reg and Kathy were required to live in Toronto for 19 months waiting for a suitable donor. “Only 10 percent of the lungs donated are usable” The long wait of course can put financial strains on any family, especially living in a metropolitan city and maintaining your own home said Beaudette.
Double kidney recipient Marcie Oliverio has gone through the process a few times. Her first kidney transplant was 23 years ago. Unfortunately the kidney began to failure and she recently required another, this time both kidneys 10 months ago. “I just lived everyday like a normal day and one day while a friend was over, the phone rang, it was quarter to 6 and sure enough it was London calling” That’s how quick it can happen and once that phone call is made the recipient is working against the clock to get to the hospital for surgery.By 8pm she was in London prepping for surgery. Some transplants don’t require the recipient to live in Toronto while waiting for the organ, Kidneys are one of them. As in Reg’s case, Marcie waited 19 months for a call.
“it is so important to understand the facts and the process in registering yourself to be a donor” said McMillan. Another event planned for this weekend will also bring awareness to organ donation. The Sault Ste. Marie Transplant Trot is set for Saturday April 23 at 10am at the Sugar Shack on Fifth line. The 5km walk / run is hosted by the Canadian Transplant Association and the Liver next door. Race kits can be picked up at the Pastry Shoppe 216 Second Line west.