Their black T-shirts proudly tout their status. A big heart is on the front of Kim Walker’s shirt and a liver on the front of Earl Howell’s and Joanne Arcado’s shirts. Charlie Fox sports images of organs routinely donated.
They are all transplant organ recipients, and don’t let the season of giving go by withouth making a special trip of thanks.
Recently area transplant recipients went to Langley Memorial Hospital’s emergenc ward, intensive care unit and surgical floor to deliver gourmet popcorn to medical staff as a tasty thank you.
This holiday season marks the 25th anniversary of BC Transplant’s Operation Popcorn, a provinal campaign to thank health care profession and raise awareness about organ donation.
“As many as 150 health care workers can be involved in the donation and transplant process, and some never learn the outcome of their efforts, much less get an opportunity to meet the people they helped,” said Dr. Sean Keenan, medical director for organ donation at BC Transplant.
Wealth of knowledge
Langley’s Charlie Fox often gets that little tug on the shirt sleeve.
At the popcorn presentation, an ER nurse took him aside to ask questions about transplants because a family member is going through the process.
Fox, a kidney donor recipient, is happy to talk transplants with anyone wanting information and oversees a support group, the Fraser Valley Transplant Network.
“My wife and I, as my donor, we do help people through the process, give them advice, give them ideas about what they can expect through the operation and post operation,” he said.
The transplant was almost eight years ago.
“Since the transplant, it’s been an amazing new lease on life, Fox said.
19 and counting
“I am 19 years on a liver,” said White Rock’s Earl Howell.
He had constricture of bile ducts, which resulted in liver damage.
“You’re liver basically packs up,” he explained.
While there were a few health challenges after, he’s enjoyed a fulfilling life.
“I’ve got to see both of my sons and daughter grow up and have grandkids
His transplant was in an era when someone had to die to donate an organ like a liver. Modern technology has allowed live donors to contribute some liver tissue in many cases.
While not able to directly contact the donor’s family, Howell keeps them in his thoughts.
“The words cannot express the gratitude that you have to that family for the decision they made in that time,” he said.
He’s enjoyed another 20 years since the organ of a complete stranger was implanted into his body, completely changing his health.
“And as far as I’m concerned, I’m going for 20 more,” Howell said.
Joanne Arcado kept getting sicker and sicker.
It started with pain and fatigue thanks to an auto-immune disease affecting her liver and progressed to the point of an inability to do daily tasks and work.
While her friends were getting married and having kids, the 20-something was in and out of hospital.
On the same say her high school sweetheart was proposing, she also got the call that a transplant liver had been found. While it wasn’t suitable, a match was found a week later.
Since her transplant, she’s making up for lost time and all she missed in life as a young woman.
Beat of life
Kim Walker, of Surrey, was happy to walk the halls of Langley Memorial Hospital with the other transplant recipients and gourmet goodies for the hospital folks who make transplants possible.
Before the surgery, she was weak but life changed when she received a heart transplant six years ago.
“I was very fortunate to only have to wait three months for my heart,” Walker said. “The first six months to a year a little rough but after that all great news,” she said.
Transplant Quick facts:
BC Transplant oversees all aspects of donation.
People can register at any of the 62 Service BC locations.
1,044,908 British Columbians are registered donors.
Kidney recipient hopes to meet and thank donor’s family
by Brian Morton/Special to the Langley Advance
Sarah Vant Geloof desperately wants to meet the surviving family members of a person whose life-saving kidney was donated to her 30 years ago.
The 48-year-old, who has been married for 27 years and has one son, was attached to a dialysis machine Dec. 7, 1986, when she got word a donor had been found.
The next day, Vant Geloof – who suffered kidney failure at age 14 after a bout of strep throat – had transplant surgery. She thinks the kidney she received may have been from a young man who died in a motorcycle accident.
“I received the kidney early in the morning Dec. 8, (but) they didn’t give out the information on donors when you have a cadaver transplant,” Vant Geloof said. “So, I’ve always thought that it would be nice to meet the people who had to make that decision.
“Not very many transplant patients have done as well as I have, which is why this is a fairly big deal to be 30 years post transplant. I am hoping if nothing else this family may read (this) article and see how well their loved one has made an incredible difference to my life.”
Vant Geloof, who received her transplant at B.C. Children’s Hospital Dec. 8, 1986, just one month before turning 19, said the kidney made a massive difference in her life.
“I was in Grade 8 (when I had kidney failure) and within two and a half years, I was on dialysis. I also had high blood pressure at age 15 because of kidney failure. On dialysis, the quality of life is not that great.
“I went in three days a week [for dialysis] and without dialysis, kidney failure will kill you.”
Vant Geloof, one of 15 children, lived in Langley at the time of her transplant.
“I’d love to meet the family and I would hope that they had closure. There would also be other people who received organs from this family.
“To know that it had such an impact because of the decision they’d made on my quality of life would be tremendous. I was on death’s bed. And to go from death’s bed to doing an eight-hour hike six months later is life changing. It’s almost unfathomable.
“I’d want to give them a hug and I’d probably cry when I saw them. I’d just really like to let them know how impressed I am that they made a wonderful choice at a time of sorrow.”
Vant Geloof, a Surrey resident, would also like to see many more people registering as organ donors.
“I have a sister who received one kidney from a live donor, my brother. That was rejected and then she received another kidney from a live donor, her sister. That’s turned out amazing. And the ones who donated had almost no change in their quality of life.”
She said that while she doesn’t work anymore, her anti-rejection pills are starting to take a toll by leaving her fatigued.
“I’m a hiker and swimmer. I can’t do as much as I did, but I still water ski,” Vant Geloof said.
According to B.C. Transplant, there have been 363 transplants – 144 of them kidney transplants – in 2016, with 630 people on the wait list, including 509 for kidneys. More than 4,300 patients are being monitored and followed in B.C. post transplant.
Across Canada, there are more than 4,000 people waiting for a life-saving transplant.
– Brian Morton is a reporter with the Vancouver Province.