For National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week (April 23-30), Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) is raising awareness about the critical need for organ and tissue donors in our community and across the province.
“Organ and tissue donation improves health and saves lives,” said Dr. Rhonda Crocker Ellacott, President and CEO of TBRHSC and CEO of the Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute. “One donor can save up to eight lives and help 75 more by donating tissue. As our population ages, the need for organ and tissue donations is increasing. We hope by sharing Terry and Jennifer’s story, that it will inspire others to consider organ and tissue donation.”
For the flag raising, Dr. Crocker Ellacott was joined by local transplant recipient Terry Gallant, his donor, Jennifer de Bakker, and other members of the Hospital’s health care team.
“I’m happy to be here with Jennifer, sharing our story,” said Gallant. “I was so fortunate to have a living donor, and I want the public to know what a big impact people have who consent to donate their organs upon death or as a living donor. It is an incredible gift to give.”
In 2008, Terry was diagnosed with polycystic renal disease, a genetic disease of the kidney. He ended up in renal failure, requiring dialysis.
“I was on peritoneal dialysis. At the time I was an entrepreneur, and having dialysis at home allowed me to keep running my businesses,” recounted Gallant. “I would go home at 5 p.m., do an exchange for an hour, and then I would continue back at work. Then I would hook up to the machine at around 8 p.m. and stay on it until 7 a.m. Then back to work. It was quite a restrictive treatment.”
“It was an incredibly challenging journey and it was a long 11 months, for sure. Filled with many struggles.”
Jennifer and Terry were friends who worked in the same building, and she knew what he was going through.
“Terry was a friend of mine who was very unwell,” de Bakker recalled. “There were three of us who decided to get tested to see if we were eligible for donating a kidney. I was the only match.”
The decision to become a living donor was one Jennifer carefully considered.
“I really had to sit with it and ponder it for a while because this was a big decision,” shared de Bakker. “But after thinking about it and seeing how sick Terry was, I knew that if I didn’t do it, his outcome wouldn’t be good. So I decided to go through with it.”
“He went in to surgery so sick and he came out almost instantly feeling better. It was pretty magical.”
“I went from where I was attached to a machine for 11 hours a day, to the freedom that organ transplant has afforded me over the last 14 years,” added Gallant. “The gratitude I have for Jennifer…it is beyond words. She has truly given me the gift of life.”
“Currently in Ontario there are about 1,400 people on the waiting list for an organ transplant,” said Kiley Perrier, Trillium Gift of Life Network’s Organ and Tissue Donation Coordinator at TBRHSC.
“By registering your consent, you are making the caring and selfless decision to try and help save other lives through organ and tissue donation.”
National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week provides an ideal opportunity to consider becoming an organ and tissue donor. Have the conversation with your loved ones and make a difference in the lives of others. Find out more and register at www.beadonor.ca. It only takes two minutes to potentially save or enhance many lives.