Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Give the Gift of Life by Becoming a Living Organ Donor

I Am Canadian-Living Donor-Organ Donor Sign


Two days.

Two short days.

That’s how shy our son Alexander was from 32 weeks gestation. What’s the significance of two days? If he had survived two more days then he could have donated his organs. And, we would have.

His death could have been someone elses life.

I think about it. A lot. But, it’s not a part of his story. However, it is part of Jen’s story.

A few months ago, when I read her story as a living organ donor, I knew that I wanted you to know about it. So much so that I contacted her and asked if she would let me share it with you. And she agreed.

For two months I have been giddy with excitement. This is what life boils down to. This is life. I never get tired of hearing Jen’s story of hope, life and selflessness.

Note that this was originally written by Jen in August 2013

I Am Canadian-Living Donor-Jen

Three weeks ago, I donated a kidney to a stranger and three weeks ago my little brother received a kidney from a stranger. It was two years of testing and appointments coming to fruition.

Let me back up a little. My younger brother, Michael, was diagnosed in 1992 with kidney failure, at 17 years of age. He received his first kidney transplant from our father in October of 1992. This kidney worked very well for him until March of 2003, when his body began to reject it and the kidney failed.

Michael began hemodialysis in March of 2003; hemodialysis is a three-day/week week, four hours at a time, process. Over the past ten and a half years, Michael has spent nearly a total of 275 days hooked up to a dialysis machine.

Fast forward to 2005; I had spent a bit of time thinking about becoming my brother’s second kidney donor and I went to get tested. Much to my surprise and disappointment I was not a match. At that point there was not much else we could do except try again in a few years. My brother went on the “List” and we all hoped he would get a match.

In 2011 and I felt a strong need to try again to become my brother’s kidney donor. This time we were living in Ottawa (Michael was in Alberta). I got tested and once again was disappointed to hear that I was not a match for Michael. But this time there was another option for me – The Living Donor Paired Exchange Program (LDPE).

The LDPE is a nation wide program that facilitates living kidney donations between patients with a willing but incompatible donor, and other pairs in the same situation. I was a willing donor, but not a match for my brother.

When this program was brought to our attention, my husband and I both signed on to broaden the pool even wider to find a match. Then the testing and appointments began: blood work, urine samples, ECGs, x-rays, CT scans, surgeons, psychiatrists… the works!

The results came back and we were both told we were excellent candidates. Each year the LDPE has about three-or-four Match Cycles, in which everyone’s information is entered into the pool, and matches are found across Canada.

We went through two or three of these Match cycles before we got the call in February 2013 that I was matched! More importantly, it meant that a match had been found for Michael.

I Am Canadian-Living Donor-Jen and Mike

July 16, 2013 was my surgery day and it went very well, as it did for my recipient. July 17, 2013 was Michael’s surgery and it went well too. As he texted later on that day, he was “peeing buckets,” which was music to everyone’s ears.

Three weeks later, I am recovering very well. I received an anonymous letter from my recipient telling me that they were recovering very well and were hoping to get a game of golf in before the snow flew. I have a beautiful scar on my left side, just below my ribs and my brother is also recuperating nicely. If I could, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Update: One year later, my brother and I are doing very well! He had his one year post transplantation appointment in July–with top notch results–and I go for my one post donor nephrectomy appointment next week. I feel great, and have found a new passion in life–to increase awareness for organ donation; to educate about the importance of this great gift.

“Don’t take your organs to Heaven. Heaven knows we need them here.”

Are You on the Living Organ Donor List?

To Find out How You can become a Live Organ Donor visit the Living Donor Paired Exchange Program Website or Follow them on Twitter.

I Am Canadian-Living Donor-Jen

Connect with Jen on Twitter

* My family is aware that upon my death, I want to be an organ donor. However, I am not on the “Living Organ Donor” list. This year, I will be contacting the centre nearest me to find out how I can be involved.

** I don’t judge anyone that chooses to not be on the list. It is a very personal decision and every one needs to make the right choice for themselves.

*** If this post saves one life. One life…


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25 thoughts on “Give the Gift of Life by Becoming a Living Organ Donor

  1. Jen Oram

    Thank you so much for putting my story out there. It is such an important thing for folks to discuss with their loved ones, and if we reached one person by posting, we have done a great thing! Thank you again! I’m open to answer any questions–or direct folks to the people who can answer them 🙂

  2. Cheryl

    I actually just replaced the organ donor sticker on my health card today and they mailed out an extra sticker so I’ll be talking to my husband tonight about this as well. Most of us don’t want to think about the “what-if’s” but after a horrible health scare with my husband last year, we know that now is the time to document these things.

  3. Ali P

    You are truly a wonderful person! Glad to hear your brother and the recipient of your donation are doing well! 🙂

  4. Soozle

    What a beautiful post! I had no idea that sort of program existed! I am registered as an organ donor – and have come to realize I am not in a majority that do so! What a shame,, it’s so simple to do and can really impact many lives!

  5. Rene

    I have a dear friend who desperately needed a kidney transplant and I seriously considered offering to be part of the match program. He ended up getting to the top of the list and getting a transplant via the ‘normal’ method but I did look into the program and think it’s great! Thanks for sharing this story – it shows that it IS possible, even when you think it may not be.

  6. Nena Sinclair

    I have nothing but praise for people who choose to be organ donors! I can’t be a part of this because I am diabetic. Prior to having diabetes, I was a regular blood donor because I’m AB negative and had planned to become an organ donor, but was told I couldn’t.

    1. Sarah Post author

      Dear Nena,

      I can’t be a blood donor because of our annual travels to Mexico (if we stopped going I could). The Kids aren’t old enough yet (need to be 16) but when the time comes, I will really think about it because Max is 0- (universal) and Artemis is A- (almost as uncommon as yours). Alexander needed a blood transfusion at the end of his life. It didn’t save his life but I don’t have any “what-ifs”. Thank you for all you do.

      Besos, Sarah
      Sarah recently posted…Changing the World Starts with One Person… You #uwHeroMy Profile

      1. Nena Sinclair

        It’s so important! My 87 year old Mom is in hospital now, she’s had surgery and so far, she’s needed 3 blood transfusions. My brother has been a blood donor for years now and reached his 100th donation a few years ago.

        If your readers can be blood or live organ donors, please do, it saves many lives!

  7. Elaine Buonsante

    Your story is very inspiring! I haven’t got around to putting my name on the donors’ list yet but your story has nudged me. I will be taking care ASAP.

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  9. Mark Cook

    Yeah this post really moved me! I’m not on an organ donor list, but my body is being donated to science when i go. My father has that special blood type and he gives blood on a regular basis.

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  11. Jason

    What an awesome thing to do! I had the pleasure of talking with Jen a little while ago and I must say that she is definitely a sweet soul. It’s an honor knowing her 🙂 I agree that it’s not the decision for everyone but for those that do, they’re saving someone’s life. I signed/sign my donar card every year since I could remember although I know that my organs are no good because of the diabetes but if there’s anything that can be used, it’s to be used when I die.
    Jason recently posted…Fall Camo – Freshly Picked SIGNATURE COLLECTION MOCCASINSMy Profile


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