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5,000 people in BC are alive today because of an organ transplant

July 25th, 2019
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Article originally appeared on PHC’s The Daily Scan

Debi Pearce first met Geoffrey Dunsire when she was helping him and his family find a new home. As she spent time with him, the 64-year-old Maple Ridge realtor learned of Geoff’s life-threatening disease and his long battle with health issues.

Geoff, a 31-year-old Mission resident, received a liver transplant six years ago at Vancouver General Hospital, but was so ill his kidney was damaged as well. “Their strength and positive outlook through it all was inspiring and it inspired me to want to be a part of it,” Debi says of Geoff and his family.

Last month, she gave Geoff the ultimate gift – one of her kidneys.

The successful operation makes Geoff the 5000th person in BC alive today because of an organ transplant.

“There are literally no words to express how grateful I am to Debi for giving me the gift of life. Thanks to her, I am ready to believe and hope for my future,” Geoff says.

Health Minister Adrian Dix.

Marking a major milestone

Both recovering well, Debi and Geoff shared their story at St. Paul’s Hospital on July 19 at an event celebrating the 5000 people alive today in BC thanks to an organ transplant.

As of July 1, more than 3,400 kidney transplant patients, 850 liver transplant patients, 300 heart transplant patients, and 275 lung transplant patients are currently monitored in BC, according to BC Transplant.

St. Paul’s Hospital transplant nephrologist Dr. Jagbir Gill says Geoff and Debi are excellent examples of the perseverance and generosity he and his colleagues witness every day.

“Organ donors are modern day heroes. They change people’s lives forever. And the generosity and courage of people like Debi is inspiring. You give hope to the thousands of people with end-organ failure across BC and Canada,” says Gill, who is also BC Transplant’s Medical Director of Informatics and Quality.

“Advances and innovations in medical science and health policy, many of which have been, and continue to be pioneered in our transplant programs here, have helped transplant recipients live longer and healthier lives,” he adds.

In the early days of transplant, as many as 80 per cent of transplant recipients had organ rejection and nearly half of all transplant recipients lost their transplanted organs. Due to medical advances and increased support both before and after surgery, it is becoming increasingly common to see recipients live upwards of 20 years after transplant.

‘We need more people to register’

This milestone comes as BC Transplant celebrates 50 years of organ donation and transplant. BC’s first transplant was a kidney, 51 years ago. The province’s first lung and heart transplants took place about 20 years later.

More than 1.4 million British Columbians have registered in the Organ Donor Registry – that’s about 28 per cent of the population. Still, over 700 people are in need of an organ transplant in BC. In 2018, 27 people died waiting.

“We need more people to register, to help save those who are waiting,” says Health Minister Adrian Dix.

As a living donor, Debi says it has been a gift to be able to give.

“Donating a kidney has changed my life in so many ways,” she says. “I feel empowered, positive and so grateful to be able to help give Geoff back his normal life again.”

For more information on becoming a donor, visit www.transplant.bc.ca.

St. Paul’s Hospital is BC’s adult Heart Transplant Centre as well as one of two kidney transplant centres in the province. Transplant recipients have needs that extend well beyond their surgical care, including access to educational resources, rehabilitation services, and emotional support groups. When you donate, you enable us to meet the complex, life-long needs of our transplant patients.

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