Celebrating life after organ transplant

Sister Jean Higgins, co-chair Kingston Chapter of Transplant Advocate Association.

It’s been almost seven years since Sister of Providence Jean Higgins received her new heart. She looks and feels great! Grateful to her donor and for her new life, Sr. Jean is giving back, or more importantly, paying it forward. She serves as co-chair of the Kingston chapter of the Transplant Advocate Association.

On April 21, close to 150 organ recipients, donors, friends and families gathered at Mary Mother of Compassion Chapel at Providence Motherhouse for Celebration of Life, a time for reflection and thanksgiving.

There were prayers, music and personal stories from organ transplant recipients, donor families and those on transplant waiting lists. In addition, two of the original three members of the association who have since died were honoured; Sylvie Gauthier and Stan Geiger.

This year’s guest speaker was Cindy Cherry, Don Cherry’s daughter, who donated a kidney to her brother Tim over thirty years ago. The surgery was successful and the only lasting effects are the physical scars.

Sr. Jean is looking forward to July when she heads to Calgary to volunteer with the Canadian Transplant Games. The week long event encourages transplant recipients to live an active, healthy lifestyle and enjoy the new life they have been given by someone else’s ultimate generosity. Athletes will compete in badminton, swimming, track and field, tennis, golf and more. Athletes range in age from five to seventy-five.

One organ donor can save up to eight lives. In Ontario alone, there are 1,500 people waiting for transplants. 20 percent of Ontarians believe they are registered donors but aren’t. Even if you’ve signed a donor card, you might not be a registered donor. To find out, it only takes a few minutes to register at www.beadonor.ca

Recently, a 20 year old Ottawa woman grabbed the attention of a nation. Helene Campbell became became headline news after her story reached Justin Bieber and popular TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. Helene is now recovering from a successful double lung transplant and her story has helped boost the profile of organ transplants. Ontario’s Trillium Gift of Life Network.

Denis Richardson lights a candle. Denis received a heart transplant twenty years ago. At the time, doctors gave him only three to five years to live.