It was with a message of awareness and hope that more than 100 people gathered at Harmony Square on Sunday for the third annual Living Green Ribbon of Hope celebration. As part of the event, participants wore green raincoats and formed a large ribbon in the centre of Harmony Square.
Brenda Barham started the annual event in 2008 because she felt the need to raise awareness about the need for organ donors like the person responsible for her receiving a new kidney and pancreas in 2004.
“I remember a time where I wasn’t healthy enough to do anything like this,” she said. “So I’ll never forget it.”
Barham needed a kidney transplant due to diabetes. Prior to her transplant, she was on eight needles of insulin a day for 20 years. With a new lease on life, Barham hopes that by spreading awareness, more people will sign their donor cards. “I don’t think a lot of people know about this,” she said. “People are waiting for transplants.”
The event included guest speakers and dignitaries as attendees listened to the stories of transplant recipients including 26-year-old Jessica Lee, who received a kidney transplant late last year. About three weeks before Lee received her transplant, she was having trouble dealing with her situation so Barham told her to go do something to take her mind off it. Lee went and got a tattoo of a green ribbon with the word ‘Hope’. After an emotional speech, Lee handed a plaque that carried the words ‘Miracles happen to those who believe in them’ to four-year-old Cooper Heeney who will eventually need a transplant.
For Barham, awareness of dialysis is as important as organ donation, as it sustains people with renal failure. “If you don’t have dialysis and you’re in renal failure, you either get a transplant or you die,” she said. “Dialysis is life saving and life prolonging.” Dialysis is a process that substitutes the functions of the kidneys and patients must undergo treatment every second day for an average of four hours at a time.
“I remember the first time I saw (dialysis) at the hospital in Hamilton, I was literally sick” Barham said. “I walked outside and threw up because I knew that’s what was ahead for me.” Barham said there are currently more than 80 dialysis patients that receive treatment at the Brantford General Hospital and that a new clinic opening in Ohsweken will be very beneficial.
“A large portion of Brantford’s dialysis patients are Aboriginal,” she said. “The need to have a clinic within easy access to them is imperative.”
Towards the end of the event, Brantford Collegiate Institute students Cara and Ally Humeniuk held a flash mob dance with most of the people in the square participating. “It’s a celebration,” Barham said. “We’re really happy for all the people who have given or received organs.”